Anyone who likes film and is interested in the making of movies will feel like a kid in a Toys ‘R’ Us at Ocho y Medio. And just like a kid in the toy store you might feel slightly overwhelmed—undecided as to where to begin, freaking out with all the cool stuff around you. 8 ½ is a bookstore on steroids stacked with pretty much everything that has to do with the world of cinema except the actual movies themselves. Photographs, posters, mugs, memorabilia, magazines and a very large selection of literature are at hand for your enjoyment, but also theater, photography, journalism and to a lesser extent classic literature have a strong presence too.
Located a block away from Plaza Espana, the store welcomes you with high ceilings, wooden floors and well thought out spacing. To the right of the entrance there is a small area dedicated to film magazines and journals, from popular publications like Fotogramas to foreign film magazines from Mexico and Italy. Crossing the main room you will find a few chairs and tables that make up the store´s café. That´s right. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, you can still enjoy a coffee and a biscuit while looking over something to read. If you´re hungry, there are actually sandwiches, desserts and ice cream available as well.
The elegant main room is completely dedicated to books, meticulously organized bookshelves stand too high for the eye to reach. There are hundreds of categories and movie guides to the best movies by year, theme or actor, movie trivia and everything in between. Perhaps the best selection is that of movie scripts.
The variety is imposing to say the least, each section offers many books on its subject. There are sections about the history of international and national cinema as well as of radio and television. There are biographies available of just about every actor, director, producer and entrepreneur. There are essays on theory of film, the technicalities of directing and perils of producing, and how-to guides abound. As far as books about movie making techniques go, there are enough for almost every niche: sound, production, music, digital, costume design, editing, etc.
The narrower section past this chic and improvised café is reserved, mostly, for accessories: Woody Allen magnets, Marilyn Monroe mugs, life sized heads of campy horror classic characters, movie themed notebooks—the works. But let´s not forget the main attraction of these money funneling garnishes, movie posters. Those who´d rather have movie posters than paintings hanging in their houses will be pleasantly surprised because there is a large selection of popular, cult and classic posters available. You´ll find the typical Fight Club and Pulp Fiction posters, but also ones of classics like Chinatown and the original King Kong and even of Italian or German films from the 20´s and 30´s you might never have heard of.
One would think the store would end there, but there is actually a narrow passageway that leads to a second smaller room. In here you will either find large photographic books—those expensive, impressive and comprehensive collections of specific subjects like wildlife in Africa or modern art in the 1960´s—or classic literature like the works of Hemingway, Wolf and Borges.
8 ½ is the kind of place that encourages you to relax and take your time browsing. How can you not when there are hundreds of titles in English, Spanish, French and Italian that you may never have heard of.
By Daniel Sznajderman