Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 11, 2014 by  


Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso” is a classic Commedia all’italiana film that captures society during the Italian economic miracle of the 1960’s and features a wonderful performance by Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Luis Trintignant. A wonderful Blu-ray release with fantastic picture quality and numerous, lengthy special features makes the Criterion Collection’s “Il Sorpasso”, a Blu-ray worth owning! Highly recommended!

Image are courtesy of © 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707


DURATION: 105 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, LPCM 1.0, Black and White,  Italian with English Subtitles


RELEASE DATE: April 29, 2014

Directed by Dino Risi

Story & Screenplay by Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari

Dialogue by Ettore Scola, Ruggero Maccari

Produced by Riz Ortolani

Cinematography by Alfio Contini

Edited by Maurizio Lucidi

Production Design by Ugo Pericoli


Vittorio Gassman as Bruno Cortona

Catherine Spaak as Lilly Cortona

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Roberto Mariani

Claudio Gora as Bibi

Luciana Angiolillo as Bruno’s Wife

Linda Sini as Zia Lidia

The ultimate Italian road comedy, Il sorpasso stars the unlikely pair of Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant as, respectively, a waggish, freewheeling bachelor and the straitlaced law student he takes on a madcap trip from Rome to Tuscany. An unpredictable journey that careers from slapstick to tragedy, this film, directed by Dino Risi, is a wildly entertaining commentary on the pleasures and consequences of the good life. A holy grail of commedia all’italiana, Il sorpasso is so fresh and exciting that one can easily see why it has long been adored in Italy.


When it comes to Commedia all’italiana (Italian comedy), Dino Risi is one of the well known Italian directors who specialized in the genre.

From films such as “A Difficult Life”, “15 from Rome”, “Scent of a Women” and “Treasure of San Gennaro”, to name a few.

But of his numerous films in his oeuvre, one film stands out and is considered his masterpiece.  The film is “Il Sorpasso” (The Easy Life).

The film would star Vittorio Gassman (“Big Deal on Madonna Street”, “Sleepers”, “Scent of a Woman”), Jean-Louis Trintignant (“Amour”, “Three Colors: Red”, “My Night at Maud’s”) and Catherine Spaak (“The Cat O’ Nine Tails”, “For Love and Gold”).

And now, Dino Risi’s masterpiece will be released on Blu-ray + DVD combo courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

“Il Sorpasso” begins with Bruno Cortona (portrayed by Vittorio Gassman) stopping by an area during his travels through Italy in his convertible Lancia Aurellia.

Hardworking law student, Roberto Mariani (portrayed by Jean-Louis Trintignant) sees Bruno parked across from his apartment and Bruno asks Roberto if he can call a female friend up.

While Roberto wants to avoid the man and study, he wants to help him and ends up letting Bruno come up to his apartment.

Immediately, Bruno’s carefree mannerism begins to show as he starts using Roberto’s apartment and wanting to thank him for his hospitality, inviting him to go out to drink, eat and enjoy life for a short while, not always studying.

Reluctant to go, Bruno gets Roberto to go out of his apartment and the two go out on a road trip on the Via Aurelia and as Roberto just wants to go home and study, Bruno starts taking him to many locations.

And in two days, Bruno takes Roberto to see life in the coast cities of Lazio and Tuscany.  Driving fast, carefree and living a life of excitement.

But how will the timid Roberto react throughout this road trip that he never planned for and the life of his new carefree friend?


“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707 ” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) in black and white.  The film looks amazing in HD as the film has been cleaned up, the contrast is sharp.  For those who have watched this film before, will notice much more detail and clarity with the Criterion Collection release.

According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative at Technicolor Rome; additional footage was taken from a 35 mm composite fine-grain, which was scanned in 2K at Deluxe Rome.   Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”


“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707 ” is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0.  Dialogue is clear, as with the music.  I didn’t notice any crackling or hiss during my viewing of the film.

As for the soundtrack, according to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm soundtrack negative.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation”.


“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707” comes with the following special features:

  • Introduction by Alexander Payne – Alexander Payne discusses watching Il Sorpasso before working on “Sideways” and what he loved about the film (5:08)
  • Dino Risi – (20:02) A 2004 interview between film critic Jean A. Gili and Dino Risi, who talks about the making of the film.
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant – (8:32) A 1983 interview between Marie-Christine Barrault and Jean-Louis Trintignant for Cine passion.
  • Ettore Scola – (14:15) A 2013 Criterion Collection interview with director Ettore Scola about Italian comedy filmmakng in the 60’s and working with Dino Risi for “Il Sorpaso”.
  • Remi Fournier Lanzoni – (15:43) A 2014 Criterion Collection interview with film scholar Remi Fournier Lanzoni of what made “Il Sorpaso” resonated strongly with Italian audiences.
  • Back to Castiglioncello – (11:02) The cast and crew of the 2012 film “L’Estate di Bruno Cortona: Casttiglioncello mell’anno del Sorpasso” returns to the beach town of Castiglioncello, where the second half of “Il Sorpasso” was shot.
  • A Beautiful Vacation – (55:21) A 2006 documentary by Fabrizio Corallo and Francesca Molteni on the 90th birthday of Dino Risi. Interviews with collaborators, friends, family of Dino Risi including an interview with the director about his life and career.
  • Speaking with Gassman – (30:46) Excerpts from Marco Risi’s documentary about actor Vittorio Gassman. Interviwes with Dino Risi and his working relationship with Vittorio Gassman.
  • Trailer – (2:26) The original theatrical trailer for “Il Sorpasso”.



“Il Sorpasso – The Criterion Collection #707” comes with a 38-page booklet featuring the essay “The Joys of Disillusionment” by Phillip Lopate, “Italy, Dark and Light” by Antonio Monda and an excerpt “Risi in His Own Words” from Dino Risi’s 2004 memoir, “I miel mostri”.


When it comes to road trip films, “Il Sorpaso” is no doubt one of the classic films in cinema.

The film has been inspirational, so much that it inspired filmmaker Alexander Payne in creating his award-winning 2004 comedy-drama film, “Sideways”.

But as a fan of Commedia all’italiana fan and in general, a fan of cinema, you have a film with award winning actor Vittorio Gassman (“Scent of a Woman”, “Big Deal on Madonna Street”) and French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (“My Night at Maud’s, “The Conformist”, “Three Colors: Red”, “Amour”) and Catherine Spaak (“The Cat o’ Nine Tails”, “The Girl from Parma”) to name a few who have taken part in this enjoyable, yet tragic comedy.

A portrait of the economic boom of the 1960’s and focusing on the cool, stylish and fun life of Italians during the Italian economic miracle, the film captures the change of Italian society and culture.

The pairing of the sociable, wild and carefree Bruno Cortona (Gassman) and the timid, serious bookworm Roberto Mariani (Trintignant), both men play each role with efficacy. Feeding off each other’s presence, Bruno is no doubt the man you want to hang out with for a good time.  The man who lives life to its very fullest, that is until we see how life of not choosing to be a family man, a husband, a father, does affect him.

Seeing his younger daughter Lilly (Spaak) dating an older man, possibly 30-40 years older than her, there is no doubt she has found a man that is more of a father figure, than he was.  And seeing this, close and personal, he realizes to late that he had chosen a life for fun and adventure and he missed out on the people that were once or should be much closer to him.

Meanwhile, as Robert starts to learn more about this stranger that he just met, we see this young man who has lived a life of focusing on his studies, being given a glimpse of Bruno’s life and starting to appreciate the life that he is missing out on.

Two very different people on opposite side of the spectrum, longing for that feeling of being in the other man’s shoes.  Even for a short while, by hanging out with each other, we learn about this other side to Bruno’s life and personality and feelings, while Roberto is able to be part of Bruno’s world and he’s starting to love it.

Of course, the film is a comedy and for the 98% of the duration of the entire film, it’s humorous, crazy, wild and a lot of fun.  But you get to see a little bit of drama when it comes to Bruno, his ex-wife (portrayed by Luciana Angiolillo) and his daughter Lilly.  And of course, the final minutes of the film that is quite appropriate of its audacious ending.

As for Blu-ray, this is the best I have seen of “Il Sorpasso”.  Even filmmaker Alexander Payne talked about watching a bad version on VHS, I feel that many who have watched this film in the past, saw a horrid, blurry VHS copy.  And so, I was quite amazed by how gorgeous the film looks in HD.  The contrast of the black and grays of the film is great, the clarity especially during the closeups was well-done and overall, this is the best version of the film I have seen to date.

The Blu-ray+DVD combo also comes with many special features including the 2006 documentary “A Beautiful Vacation” by Fabrizio Corallo and Francesca Molteni on the 90th birthday of Dino Risi.

Overall, Dino Risi’s “Il Sorpasso” is a classic Commedia all’italiana film that captures society during the Italian economic miracle of the 1960’s and features a wonderful performance by Vittorio Gassman and Jean-Luis Trintignant.  A wonderful Blu-ray release with fantastic picture quality and numerous, lengthy special features makes the Criterion Collection’s “Il Sorpasso”, a Blu-ray worth owning!

Highly recommended!


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