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Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) is at a crisis point in his life and his work; in the opening sequence, Guido, suffocating, is caught in traffic with the windows of his car locked shut. He climbs out of the sunroof and literally rises up over the highway into the clouds, seemingly free, when he realizes there's a rope tied around his ankle that is violently pulling him back to earth. Cutting from this dream to the health spa where Guido is trying to recapture his creativity and write the screenplay for his next film, his vices become clear: Guido is self-absorbed, and he's distracted by the fabulous cast of actresses, intellectuals, and eccentrics who have joined him at the spa. Additionally he struggles with Freudian complexes about his wife (Anouk Aime), his lover (Sandro Milo), his ideal woman (Claudia Cardinale), and his dead parents; and his repressive Catholic guilt follows him everywhere like a haunting mist.