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Amarcord – The Criterion Collection #4 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 8, 2011 by  



A vibrant, beautiful, hilarious and marvelous masterpiece from Federico Fellini. This Blu-ray release of “Amarcord” from the Criterion Collection is a must-own for your cinema collection!  Highly recommended. A+

Image courtesy of © 1973 F.C. Produzioni S.r.l – P.E.C.F. S.a.r.l. 2010 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Amarcord – The Criterion Collection #4

YEAR OF FILM: 1973

DURATION: 123 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), Color, Monaural, In Italian with English Subtitles + optional English dubbed soundtrack

COMPANY: Janus Films/Cristald Film/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: February 8, 2011

Directed by Federico Fellini

Written by Federico Fellini

Screenplay and Story by Tonino Guerra

Produced by Franco Cristaldi

Music by Nino Rota

Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno

Edited by Ruggero Mastroianni

Production Design by Danilo Donati

Art Direction by Giorgio Giovannini

Costume Design by Danilo Donati

Starring:

Pupella Maggio as Miranda Biondi, Titta’s Mother

Armando Brancia as Aurelio Biondi, Titta’s Father

Magali Noel as Gradisca

Ciccio Ingrassia as Teo (the Mad Uncle)

Nando Orfei as Patacca, Titta’s Uncle

Luigi Rossi as the Lawyer

Bruno Zanin as Titta Biondi

Gianfilippo Carcano as Don Baravelli

Josiane Tanzilli as Volpina

Giuseppe Ianigro as Titta’s Grandfather

Ferruccio Brembilla as Fascist Leader

Antonino Faa Di Bruno as Count Lovignano

Maria Antonietta Beluzzi as Tobacconist

Mauro Misul as Philosophy Teacher

Ferdinando Villella as Fighetta, Greek Teacher

Antonio Spaccatini as Federale

Aristide Caporale as Giudizio

Gennaro Ombra as Biscein

Stefano Proietti as Oliva, Titta’s Brother

Domenico ertica as Blilnd Man

Alvario Vitali as Naso

Bruno Scagnetti as Ovo

Fernando De Felice as Ciccio

Bruno Lenzi as Gigliozzi

This carnivalesque portrait of provincial Italy during the fascist period, the most personal film from Federico Fellini, satirizes the director’s youth and turns daily life into a circus of social rituals, adolescent desires, male fantasies, and political subterfuge, all set to Nina Rota’s classic, nostalgia-tinged score. The Academy Award–winning Amarcord remains one of cinema’s enduring treasures.


Federico Fellini, the legendary Italian filmmaker and screenwriter known for cinema masterpieces such as “The White Sheik” (1952),  “I Vitelloni” (1953), “La Strada” (1954), “Nights of Cabiria” (1957),”La Dolce Vita” (1960),  “8 1/2” (1963), etc.

Fellini’s films are known for capturing ethereal storylines, fantasy that binges on desire and his films are among those that have tested viewers but also has provided many cineaste with visual delight from the films that are from his oeuvre.  His influence has inspired Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Tim Burton, Pedro Almodovar to name a few and while many think of “La Dolce Vita”, “8 1/2”, “I Vitelloni” as the top of Fellini’s career, there are many who feel that “Amarcord” is one of his most personal. “Amarcord” is also the third film for Fellini that won an Oscar for “Best Foreign Film” but also won multiple awards throughout the world and is perhaps one of his most accessible film for cinema fans worldwide.

The film was the fourth DVD release for The Criterion Collection back in 1999 and received a special re-release featuring more special features in 2006.  In 2011, a Blu-ray release of “Amarcord” including the special features from the 2006 DVD release is now available in the U.S.

While not an autobiography, the film mirrors Fellini’s life as a child and teenager growing up in Rimini, Italy (a seaside town in the province of Emilia-Romagna) during the time of Fascist Italy.

“Amarcord” is not the easiest film to describe because it’s one of those films that must be experienced.  The film can be seen as a coming-of-age film but also a film that has your typical villagers that everyone knows their name because of their actions or their body.  The carnivalesque film focuses on various people of the village throughout the year during the 1930’s and the various episodes that transpire within a year’s time.

“Amarcord” (which means “I remember” in Romagnolo) takes place in a village which has welcomed the spring time courtesy of the puffballs that float in the air.  Everyone welcomes the end of Winter and a man named Giudizio (played by Aristide Caporale), looks into the camera and recites a poem.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to the beautiful Gradisca (played by Magali Noel).  A woman known for her body and clothing that accentuates her posterior which many of the men and even teenage boys from the village have always taken notice.

In this village, we are introduced to characters such as the prostitute and nymphomaniac named Voplina (played by Josiane Tanzilli), the blind accordion player (played by Domenica Pertica), the heavy set and enormously well-endowed tobacconist (played by Maria Antonietta Beluzzi) and the family members of which “Amacord” focuses on, the Biondi family.  Aurelio Biondi (played by Armando Brancia) is the hot-headed father who always gets upset with his teenage son Titta Biondi (played by Bruno Zanin).

While Titta gets in trouble most of the time, his mother Miranda (played by Pupella Maggio) is always ready to argue with Aurelio.  Other members of the family include Titta’s younger brother Oliva (played by Stefano Proietti), his grandfather (played by Giuseppe Ianigro) who may look old but can easily remember the ages when he and others had sex and Miranda’s brother Lallo (played by Nando Orfei) and his wife who live at the house.  Needless to say, because of Aurelio’s hot temper and Titta’s mischievous nature, there is never a quiet moment at the house.

When the camera is focused on the teenager Titta, we learn how he and his friends love to get in trouble.  From picking on people, to finding ways to upset their teachers and at times, making fun of their own friends during class.  But these teenagers have one thing in common and that is the fact they are horny teenagers who love to look at a woman’s ass (and also enjoy pleasuring themselves to release their sexual tension).  For Titta, he just loves to look at Gradisca’s body whenever she is walking by and one day hopes, he can try to make a move on her.

As for Aurelio, he is anti-fascist.  Because of his hot-head, his wife Miranda does all she can to prevent him from getting in trouble, this includes locking the gates of their home to keep him inside.  He can’t help but always argue with Titta who loves to get his father upset.  But still, Aurelio takes care of his family.

Gradisca, is the popular single woman in the village.  She dreams of having someone to love and someone to love her right back.  She embodies confidence and knows that men and boys love to look at her when she and her friends are walking around.  And she knows with the fascists coming to town, this is her chance to find a husband.

The film shows us how life is in the village for these characters and everyone around them for the whole year.  Featuring many short scenes may it be Titta and his friends going to school, getting in trouble, looking at beautiful women to Gradisca trying to find “Mr. Right”, “Amarcord” is a collection of events with no real storyline but experiences from Fellini’s life and also his imagination.

VIDEO:

“Amarcord” is presented in color (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  I have compared the 2011 Blu-ray release and the 2006 DVD release and the colors are much more vibrant compared to its DVD counterpart.  More detail of the walls and surroundings of the city can be seen quite clearly on Blu-ray.  As well as the grime on the faces of characters like Volpina, the stained shirts of Titta and the hairy back of Aurelio.  These are much more evident on Blu-ray versus watching it on DVD.  There is a good amount of grain that can be seen on the Blu-ray release and for the most part, for fans of the film, watching it on HD is definitely worth the upgrade.

According to the Criterion Collection, the HD transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm interpositive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean sytem, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Amarcord” is presented in its original Italian uncompressed monaural plus an optional English dubbed soundtrack.  Dialogue and music is clear and understandable.  I didn’t notice any clicks, pops or hiss during the Italian soundtrack.  As for the English dubbed soundtrack, while I try to stay away from dubbed soundtracks, I will have to give a nod for those that worked on it as they tried to match the voices with the lips and some of acting of the voice actors were well-done but some of the voice acting was not too my liking.    Needless to say, I preferred the original Italian soundtrack much more.

According to the Criterion Collection, the monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic soundtrack.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated audio workstation.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Amarcord – The Criterion Collection #4” on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by film scholars Peter Brunette (from Wake Forest) and Frank Burke (from Queen’s college, Ontario and author of “Fellini’s Films”).
  • Fellini’s Homecoming – (44:15) A fantastic 45-minute documentary on the complicated relationship between the celebrated director, his hometown of Remini and his past.  Fellini’s friends chime in on the characters of “Amarcord” and who they were modeled after.
  • Magali Noël – (15:11) Video interview with star Magali Noël (who plays Gradisca).
  • Fellini’s Drawings – Federico Fellini’s drawings of characters in the film and showcasing the sketches for “Amarcord”. Using your remote, you can cycle through the various images.
  • Felliniana – A presentation of ephemera devoted to “Amarcord” from the collection of Don Young.  Featuring stills and radio ads (about 3 minutes).   Use your remote to cycle through the stills from the film.
  • Gideon Bachman Interviews – Archival audio interviews with Fellini and his friends and family, by longtime radio film critic Gideon Bachmann.  Audio interview with Fedrico Fellini (30:39), audio interview with friends and family (58:59).  Featuring photos of Fellini throughout his life.
  • Restoration Demonstration – (5:25) The restoration demonstration was included with the 2006 DVD re-release of “Amarcord” and is the same restoration used for the Blu-ray release.
  • Deleted scene – (3:03) A deleted scene featuring Contessa’s distraught after losing a diamond ring down her toilet.  Carlini tries to retrieve it.
  • Trailer – (3:46) The American release trailer.

EXTRAS:

Included is a 66-page booklet featuring “Federico of the Spirits” by Sam Rohdie and “My Rimini” by Fedrico Fellini.

“Amarcord” is a film that has so many moments, memories and each of these scenes are full of humor that the film is well-crafted and is able to escape from the contrived, mediocrity or the banality of modern films.

There are so many Fellini films that I have watched in my lifetime and thanks to the Criterion Collection, for us in America, we are fortunate to have access to a good number of his films.  But among his masterpieces, there are a few of his films that I tend to rewatch many times and “Amarcord” is one of them.

“Amarcord” is a film that captures everything beautiful, everything ugly, everything about life and what people see day-to-day.  And I can imagine for Fellini, although “Amarcord” is not an exact autobiography nor was it intended to be, it is paying homage to what he experienced throughout his younger years and the people he came in contact with.

What makes “Amarcord” so intriguing, and so fun without the cinema banality that one would be used to seeing, is that we are given a taste of episodes of these villagers and the way its put together, you find yourself as a voyeur of these moments in the lives of these individuals that live in a small village.  There is no real plot line, but it’s a film that features so many of the fun moments that life has to offer that makes “Amarcord” so delightful.

From moments when the Biondi family goes to pick up their Uncle Teo from the mental hospital and the uncle runs up to the tree not wanting to get down and starts screaming of how he wants a woman.  Anyone who dares to get him down is pelted with fruit.  Another scene features Titta and his friends at a parade and celebration for Benito Mussolini aka “Il Duce” and each have their own daydreams of being with a woman.  Or a scene where we watch as Gradisca tries to prepare for a romantic night with a man or when Titta goes to the cinema to pull some of his moves on Gradisca and to see what happens.  Or possibly one of the most memorable scenes is when Titta goes to the big but very busty tobacco saleswoman and manages to experience a woman’s breast, it’s just how its featured on screen, you can’t help but laugh as the young character is not sure what to do and all the woman can tell him “Suck, no blow!”.

But what also works is how the art direction of the film helps to give us that feeling of carnivalesque characters.  Danilo Donati’s awesome costume and production design, Giorgio Giovannini’s surrealistic art direction is fantastic and of course, the cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno is magnificent.  While the writing is not overly polemic, Fellini and Tonino Guerra did a great job of interjecting the sex and politics that are a strong part of the enjoyment of this film.

All the primary characters and supporting characters also add to the enjoyment of the film.  To sum it up, “Amarcord” is a true masterpiece from Fellini!

And I can go on and on about the positives of this film but still not be able to describe it because frankly, I don’t want to spoil anything for the viewer.  Also, as mentioned earlier, this is not one of those films that I can easily describe.  It’s probably best to say that it’s various episodes that happen in a village over a year’s time and keep it at that.

Clearly, “Amarcord” is one of those films that a cinema fan must watch and experience.    And I have to say that when The Criterion Collection released the 2006 DVD, I felt that this was one of the best DVD’s released from the company.  The way it was treated and given special features galore, lengthy and enjoyable, but most of all informative.   And now this film has been given its HD treatment which I found to be quite a gorgeous upgrade from the original 2006 DVD release.  The detail of the village surroundings, the details that are more apparent on the characters, “Amarcord” looks very good on Blu-ray!

And if you haven’t owned the 2006 DVD release (or even its original 1999) DVD release, this is one Fellini film (and I can easily vouch for nearly all Fellini films on the Criterion Collection) that is definitely worth owning.

I’m constantly asked if it’s like “8 1/2” or “La Strada” and the only thing that I can tell people is forget about those films.  Just enjoy this one and experience it!

And then when you are done, watch the documentary “Fellini’s Homecoming” afterward as you get to know the true story behind “Amarcord” and the complicated relationship that Fellini had with his hometown of Rimini.  And you get plenty of special features which include audio commentary, interviews, radio interviews and also included is a wonderful 66-page booklet (same contents from the 2006 release) which include Fellini’s essay “My Rimini”, a collection of reminisces from the filmmaker when he was laying in a hospital bed (thinking he was going to die) and was being treated by his doctor from his hometown of Rimini.

This latest release of “Amarcord”, aside from being a Fellini masterpiece is literally a grand slam for the Criterion Collection.  It’s one of the most complete Blu-rays released with special features that matter and definitely enhances ones appreciation for the film.

For those who own the wonderful 2006 Criterion Collection re-release on DVD and wonder if  the new Blu-ray is worth the upgrade, my answer is yes!  The film looks great on Blu-ray but if you are watching it on a TV that doesn’t have 1080p capability and you are used to watching movies on your laptop or TV, then probably not but if you are planning to upgrade your equipment or have the equipment to watch films in HD, then most definitely.  There is no major difference in the amount of special features between the 2011 Blu-ray release and the 2006 DVD re-release aside from PQ and AQ differences.  So, if you have the equipment to enjoy “Amarcord” in HD, then yes… I highly recommend upgrading from DVD to Blu-ray as this film looks absolutely beautiful in HD.

Overall, “Amarcord” is a vibrant, beautiful, hilarious and marvelous masterpiece from Federico Fellini. The Blu-ray release of “Amarcord” from the Criterion Collection is a must-own for your cinema collection!  Highly recommended. A+

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