x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Nine

With so many memorable names in the cast, it's a shame the overall effect is so forgettable.

Portraying Lilli, the actress Judi Dench performs Folies Bergere with showgirls during a number in Rob Marshall's Nine.
Portraying Lilli, the actress Judi Dench performs Folies Bergere with showgirls during a number in Rob Marshall's Nine.

Nine was much talked up before it appeared on screen. It boasted a cast that included Daniel Day-Lewis, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz. It was part-penned by the late Anthony Minghella, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, and helming the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean) and produced by a Weinstein (Harvey). A smorgasbord of Hollywood egos all crammed into one, in other words. How could that possibly go wrong, people mused. Surely it was destined for box-office greatness?

Not quite. True, it was nominated for four Oscars and five Golden Globes, but it won none of them and upon release there was a vague sense from critics and moviegoers alike that it had disappointed. Perhaps the first problem with Nine is that it lacks originality. Twice over. Starting out as the 1963 Oscar-winning Fellini film 8, it was then transformed into a multi-Tony-winning stage musical by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston in 1982.

This, the latest incarnation, has taken the stage musical and turned that back into a film. How very postmodern. The story opens with Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido Contini, an adored Italian film director, who is shortly to start the cameras rolling for his next film. Trouble is, there isn't much of anything to shoot. Guido appears to be suffering some kind of mid-life crisis, and 10 days ahead of the start date he still hasn't penned a word of the script.

Chivvied by his producer, Dante (Ricky Tognazzi), he puts out his cigarette and puts on a tie to appear at a press conference in Rome at which is it announced the film is simply to be called "Italia" and will star the seductive, screen siren Claudia Jessen (Nicole Kidman). Guido then panics and disappears to the Italian seaside, trying to escape from the pressure of creating his masterpiece. But he is, after all, a hugely famous movie director, constantly told by everyone how they love his early films, although generally not so much the later ones - "The flops", as Guido himself admits ruefully at one point.