9.27.2004

Introductions: Gilliam Introduces Fellini's 8 1/2

I love introductions. I hate introductions. I love introductions because I get introduced to someone new or introduced to a new facet of that someone whom I may have already been introduced to.

I hate introductions because I rarely feel like I'm getting introduced. I want to get a feel for the face behind the face, the man behind the name.

I recently read Ray Bradbury's introduction to his Illustrated Man collection: profound and inspirational, yes, but perhaps it's been too long since he met his collection on intimate terms for introductions to extend beyond the courteous--although asking for more than profound and inspirational is too much to ask.

Ben Marcus takes a personal side route in his introduction of the Anchor anthology. Personal anecdotes can provide deeper insight into the work at hand if it also shows how the introducer responded to the work. In fact, an introduction almost must be personal--or else why should we care if we don't know what made the introducer care? Yet, while there are some passages worth cutting out and pasting to your monitor, the anecdote is anecdotal.

A better introduction might have been carved out of the Marcus interview material in Bomb, mixing the more informative parts, discarding the less informative, which may be more of a fault of the interviewer than the interviewee. In a magazine about the arts, we want to know about the art--and only the personal as it relates to and impinges upon the arts. Perhaps Marcus or his interviewer feels differently.

More telling about introductions is that I had picked up the anthology in the bookstore, browsed, and moved on. It didn't seem to offer much new--that is, until I read the interview in Bomb. It may be I've been spoiled by introductions by Dozois and Hartwell and Norton anthologies. If I'm going to plunk money down for a reprint of various artists, I want to why you chose those artists and those particular works.

Terry Gilliam does the perfect introduction to Fellini's film, 8 1/2. We get a feel for what Fellini may have been up to overall as well as in particular scenes, for how Fellini may have approached it, and for how it fits into the artist's oevre, taking account of certain criticisms of the artist. (However, Fellini's bullwhip against women comes within a dream--an irony that Fellini cannot even control women in his fantasies.)

What I love most about the introduction is something all artists and critics should keep in mind--a theme similar to what Fellini was trying to convey within the film:
"8 1/2 is Fellini's movie that sticks most with me. It may not even be my favorite movie. There may be others that I like more. But it's the one that struck such a deep chord, that was so truthful and lingering that it's the one I will always refer back to. Even when Fellini falls on his face--and he's done it a few times with his films--there are always moments in them that will stand up against anything else out there, and they're the things... that I remember. They're little bits of shrapnel that go in at moments of sheer clarity and brilliance and magic. He's left more bits of shrapnel in my brain than most people have."

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