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Great Italian Directors Collection (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 9, 2011 by  



For those who have watched the previously released DVD or Blu-ray masterpiece of Italy’s most revered filmmakers of the ’50s and ’60s and are wanting more Antonioni, Fellini, Visconti, De Sica or Monicelli, look no further as “Great Italian Directors Collection” is a fantastic DVD box set showcasing Michelangelo Antonioni’s first full length feature film, a collaboration by Fellini, Visconti, De Sica and Monicelli for “Boccaccio ’70” and the exciting and fun sex comedy “Casanova ’70” by the legendary Italian comedy director Mario Monicelli.   This is an enjoyable DVD box set and definitely recommended for cineaste wanting more Italian cinema for their their film collection! 

Images courtesy of © 1950 Surf Film SRL. All rights reserved.

DVD TITLE:  Great Italian Directors Collection

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: Story of a Love Affair (1950), Boccaccio ’70 (1962), Casanova ’70 (1965)

DURATION: Story of a Love Affair (98 Minutes), Boccaccio ’70 (204 Minutes), Casanova ’70 (115 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: Black and White, Color, (1:33:1 for “Story of a Love Affair), (1:85:1 for “Boccaccio ’70” and “Casanova ’70”), Monaural 1.0, Italian with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Lorber Films/Kino Lorber

RATED: NOT RATED

RELEASE DATE: 2011

Story of a Love Affair
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Country: Italy
Year: 1950
Story of a Love Affair (1950) is the legendary Michelangelo Antonioni’s debut feature, a powerful statement on the delusions and violence sparked by a passionate love. This deeply tragic romance already exhibits the astonishing formal control and penetrating insights into the human condition that would later make him famous in films like Il Grido, L’Avventura and Blow-Up.


Boccaccio ’70
Directors: Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Mario Monicelli, Vittorio De Sica
Country: Italy
Year: 1962
Four legendary filmmakers direct some of Europe’s biggest stars in BOCCACCIO ’70, a landmark anthology film. Mario Monicelli (Big Deal on Madonna Street), Federico Fellini (8½), Luchino Visconti (The Leopard) and Vittorio De Sica (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) direct Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Romy Schneider and more through four stories of unashamed eros. Modeled on Boccaccio’s Decameron, they are comic moral tales about the hypocrisies surrounding sex in 1960s Italy.


Casanova ’70
Director: Mario Monicelli
Country: Italy
Year: 1965
Nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Screenplay, Casanova ’70 is a raucously funny sex romp starring Marcello Mastroianni at his charismatic peak. Packed with bed-hopping hijinks, a parade of gorgeous actresses, and Mastroianni’s hilariously dry wit, Casanova ’70 is a colorfully ribald gem from the Golden Age of Italian comedy.

Italian cinema.  Born in the early 1900’s and known for their epic silent films to their avant-garde movement in the teens but most notably, the creation of Italian Neorealism of the 1940’s.

Films that would showcase war, post-war and the economic strife of the struggling working class.  During this era, filmmakers such as Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini and others would be known for their work depicting life of Italy’s new society.

By the 1950, we would see a new filmmaker named Michelangelo Antonioni emerge from documentary filmmaking to creating a tragic melodrama and Italian noir film “Story of a Love Affair” and by the 1960’s, Italy would see Commedia all’Italiana (Italian Comedy) take form and filmmaker Mario Monicelli becoming well-known for his romantic comedies.

For many cineaste who have acquired a collection of Italian neorealism films from these famous directors or Michelangelo’s more “alienating” films of the ’60s, for those who want to experience the “other” films made by these filmmakers can definitely enjoy the works of Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and Mario Monicelli through Kino Lorber’s DVD box set “Great Italian Directors Collection”.

Included in this box set is Michelangelo Antonioni’s first full feature-length film “Story of a Love Affair” from 1950 which showcases Antonioni’s first work that dealt with tragic romance.  The film presented on DVD is the new restoration by Cinecitta Studio and also includes a second DVD with four lengthy special featurettes.

The second film featured is “Boccaccio ’70” from 1962 which is more like one long film with four different style of movies included and featuring the work of Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and Mario Monicelli.   The DVD (a Blu-ray release is also available) features the original uncut version shown in Italy back in 1962 before the producers trimmed out the first story Mario Monicelli’s “Renzo e Luciana” in order to achieve a short duration and please audiences internationally.  So, instead of three films in “Boccacio ’70”, with this DVD, viewers will see all four films!

The third and final film features the legendary filmmaker of Italian Comedy, Mario Monicelli’s “Casanova ’70”, an intriguing romantic comedy about a suave bachelor who can only fulfill his sexual libido by engaging in dangerous acts.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for “Best Screenplay”.

To access our review for each film, please click on the link below (Please note that our review for “Boccacio ’70” is for the Blu-ray release and not the DVD release.  Both the Blu-ray and DVD release come with the same special features.):

Story of a Love Affair

Boccacio ’70

Casanova ’70

“Great Italian Directors Collection” comes with a slipcase featuring each film in their own slim DVD case (Note: “Story of a Love Affair” comes with two DVD’s).

As a fan of Italian cinema, here in the United States, there are only so many films you can access on DVD or Blu-ray of films by Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittoria De Sica and Mario Monicelli.  So, when I found out that Kino Lorber was releasing a Italian Directors Collection on DVD, I was very excited.

Especially to see the restored version of Antonioni’s “Story of a Love Affair” and the documentaries that accompany the DVD release.  Also, the uncut “Boccacio ’70” which many have only watched with three movies included. This time, everyone can see all four films together as it was shown in Italy.  And of course, to see Mario Monicelli’s “Casanova ’70”!

First, let’s talk about  Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Story of a Love Affair”.

Before I begin my review of “Story of a Love Affair”, let me first preface with a mention of Kino Lorber’s “Great Italian Directors Collection” and that any Italian cinema collection must come with an Antonioni film.

While Italian cinema is notable for Italian neorealism, what makes Michelangelo Antonioni stand out is his unwillingness to follow trends, to follow traditional cinema and literally, he does what he wants and with his artistic creations, there is unique symbolism and his version of romance films are unique, alienating and wonderful.

But with that being said, his films are not for everyone who are used to traditional cinema.  Man loves woman.  Women loves man.  Happy ending.

As we know, love is complex and complexity is what Antonioni tends to interject his vision, his style with absolute efficacy.

With “Story of a Love Affair”, this is Michelangelo’s first full-length feature film.  While many Italian filmmakers were showcasing the struggle of Italian citizens via post-World War II, the filmmakers in the “Great Italian Directors” collection such as Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and a few others were known for showcasing the struggling working class, for Antonioni, the Bellentani murder case of 1948 which shocked Italians was big news and according to Assistant Director Francesco Maselli, it was an inspiration for this melodrama/Italian noir film.

But the characters and the whole entire situation is nothing about the Bellentani case.  If there was any close relation, its the fact that the main character Paola is married to a wealth industrialist and has an affair with another man.  Where Countess Bellentani was a socialite and poet, Paola is a woman who just thrives on her husband’s money but really shows no care in their relationship.

So, there is no surprise that her husband Enrico would do an investigation on his wife’s past life.  After all, he married her not too long after he met her and the fact that she is quite distant, years before  prenuptial agreements, one had to watch their finances, especially from one that may be a gold digger.

So, when her husband hires an investigator to look into her past, needless to say, when his wife Paola finds out from Guido, a former flame that an investigator was looking into her past, she thinks its because of the death of her best friend Giovanna.

She becomes paranoid that the investigator would think that she and Guido are involved in Giovanna’s death, mainly because Paola’s best friend was engaged to Guido and that she was secretly having a sexual relationship with him at the time.

But when both Paola and Guido finally see each other, their passion once again reignites.  And while Guido keeps his cool that Paola is married to a wealthy man, Paola shows her jealousy towards Guido whenever he’s with a beautiful woman.  Naturally, she wants Guido all to herself and would go as far as to ask him to kill her husband.

The film was shot in Ferrara, where Michelangelo Antonio lived and the film would feature Antonioni’s girlfriend, Lucia Bose (Miss Italy 1947) as Paola; actor Massimo Girotti, best known for his role in Luchino Visconti’s “Obsessione” (1943) and “Senso” (1954) ; and fashion designer Ferdinando Sarmi as Paola’s wealthy industrialist husband, Enrico Fontana.

While “Story of a Love Affair” is unlike his alienation films that Antonioni would be known more than a decade later, but yet a troubled relationship is showcased, as well as the well-situated shots that would become a big part of Antonioni’s oeuvre.

While “Story of a Love Affair” would be looked at as a bold film for its time in Italian cinema, its a magnificent first film for Antonioni and would lead him to create wonder films such as “L’avventura”, “La Notte”, “L’Eclisse”, “Red Desert” and “Blowup”, to name a few.

And this film looks absolutely great on DVD, considering how much damage the film was in and the original negative no longer being used, Cinecitta did a wonderful job in the restoration of this film.

As for the DVD release of “Story of a Love Affair”, the fact that there are four lengthy featurettes, I was very excited that Kino Lorber included many special features with this classic film.  It is important to note that ”Story of a Love Affair” is available on DVD and also included with the “Great Italian Directors Collection” box set.

Overall, a fantastic inclusion to the “Great Italian Directors Collection” and a magnificent first feature film by Michelangelo Antonioni.  Highly recommended!

The second DVD included in the “Great Italian Directors Collection” DVD box set is “Boccacio ’70” (which is also available on Blu-ray).  Featuring Federico Fellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica and Mario Monicelli.

Sexy and entertaining!  “Boccaccio ’70″ is an entertaining anthology featuring the work of four renown Italian filmmakers and also featuring an all-star cast.

But most importantly, with the Blu-ray and DVD release of “Boccaccio ’70″, viewers will finally get to see what was shown in Italy, not a trilogy but all four stories.

With Mario Monicelli’s “Renzo e Luciana”, what I enjoyed about this film is how it showcases the busy metropolitan city in Italy.  But also a scene from yesteryear, especially the busy public pools.  To see the number of people at the pools during the hot summer, people of all ages, was quite interesting but also to see how possibly some business were back in the day of not allowing their female workers to keep a job if they are married or have children.

May it be fears of missing an employee and slowing production or that is the style of Luciana’s Draconian boss, but it was quite interesting to see the story of a young couple in love and the challenges they had to make sure they had the income to make their marriage work and plan for their family home.

But Monicelli’s story does showcase innocent love or unconditional love.

The second story “Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio” is interesting in the fact that we have a story of a conservative who does all he can to stop indecency.  And of course, where we have seen conservative politicians to TV evangelists succumb to their own sins, the same can be said about Dr. Antonio.  Not so much with a real woman but the fact that he finds himself falling in love with the buxom Swedish blond model, Anita Ekberg on his billboard across the street from his apartment.

While the film is a much slower pace compared to the other three films, what makes “Le Tentazioni del Dottor Antonio” an entertaining comedy is its characters and the “milk song” which is played throughout the film.  The film is also quite vibrant with its various characters, many who support the milk billboard with Anita Ekberg but there is no doubt, in 1962, Ekberg’s appearance and showcasing her body was a big draw for viewers at the time.

As for love, this love I suppose can be classified as “blind love”.

The third story “Il lavoro” is possibly my favorite story and the saddest of the three.  Romy Schneider absolutely shines in this film and without spoiling the film, the story of how two people became a couple for the sake of their parents in building an empire, call it a business transaction.  But for Pupe (Schneider), while the men are about the money, for her, it’s about love and wondering why her husband must gallivant towards prostitutes while he is married.  So, when she gives up her wealth to take a job, it’s the job that becomes the most surprising, and the only way she is able to make her husband be with her, even if its not true, romantic love.

What kind of love would I call this film?  I would have to call it, “demeaning love”.

The final and fourth story is possibly the most exciting of the four.   A film that shows us how wonderful the collaboration between Vittoria De Sica and actress Sophia Loren. “La riffa” starring the vibrant Loren as carnival worker Zoe.  A hardworking woman who depends on no man, but is willing to be there for her pregnant friend and help them financially by using her body to entice people to purchase lottery tickets for possibly one night of romance with her. And of course, nearly every man wants one night with Zoe.

Of course, during the process, she does meet a young man that she cares about.  But when he finds out about the lottery, he is saddened.   What happens when one man, a shy timid Christian man wins the lottery?

If you love Sophia Loren and you loved her in films such as “Marriage Italian Style” or “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, she is absolutely sexy in this film.  And she doesn’t play the naive character, she’s a pretty strong-willed character that calls the shots and is quite aware of her sexuality and the men who really want to sleep with her.

As for the kind of love, I guess you can easily call it “lust” when it comes to the male characters but for the character of Zoe, it’s more of “In Search of Love” because she does hope that through her business, she will a man that she can truly love.

So, in essence, “Boccaccio’70″ is a love story.  Four different love stories and we have seen quite a few anthology films such as “Paris, Je T’aime” to another “different kind of love” type of film with the Hong Kong anthology “Heroes in Love”.

But there are several things of what leads to the efficacy of “Boccaccio ’70″.  One is the fact that you have four well-known filmmakers taking part in the film and that you have four talented actresses highlighting the film.  Granted, possibly another reason why Producer Conti eliminated “Renzo e Luciana” was because Marisa Solinas was not the star actress compared to Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg or Romy Schneider.  These three women also became a popular muse for the respective filmmaker they had worked with, Loren with De Sica, Ekberg with Fellini and Schneider with Visconti.

But with “Boccaccio ’70″, watching it again, this time around, it was a film that I had to watch in two sittings.  At over three hours, I wanted to savor each film by watching only two at a time.  To appreciate each story for its own visual style and direction. And I’m glad I did, because I felt I noticed much more in terms of cinematography, what was captured on camera, mannerisms of each character (from the wiggle and jiggle of Loren’s Zoe, Visconti’s closeup especially showcasing Schneider’s eyes, Fellini’s direction when it comes to capturing certain visuals and even the innocence and playfulness of Solinas’ Luciana, I found each story to be entertaining when watching them separately on my own time versus watching it all in one setting.  It’s a long film and I don’t know if I could have dedicated myself to watching all four stories in a row in a theater setting.  So, watching on Blu-ray made this film much more enjoyable for me.

“Boccaccio ’70″ is a wonderful, hilarious and entertaining anthology about love during 1960′s Italy.  Another fantastic inclusion for the “Great Italian Directors Collection”!

And for the final film featured in the “Great Italian Directors Collection”, we have Mario Monicelli’s “Casanova ’70”.

It’s one thing to watch a sexual comedy but it’s even better when you have something that is unlike the banality of sex-com films of today. Especially one with international flair!

Mario Monicelli is the King of Italian comedies and what he brings to the audience is the charm of Marcello Mastroiani but the hotness of a Bond film with style (the costume design for this film by Maria De Matteis is elegant and sophisticated!) and beauty as each women featured in the film screams of hotness.

Actress Verna Lisi (known for starring with Jack Lemmon in “How to Murder Your Wife”) plays the innocent Gigliola, Austrian model/actress Marisa Mel (“Danger: Diabolik”, “One on Top of the Other”) plays Thelma, and these are just two of the several beautiful women shown throughout the film.

But unlike today’s sex-com films that usually are connected to alcohol or losing one’s virginity, Mastroianni’s Andrea Rossi-Colombotti is the character that men can only hope to be in his shoes, that is until you learn what drives his libido and that is “danger”.

I know these individuals exist and some enjoy the risk of lovemaking, but this is not about the lovemaking but more of what it takes Andrea to get started in order to engage in lovemaking.   He is suave, can easily charm women and get them into bed but he has to rely on danger to get him going and that is a major problem because he can’t perform when he has a beautiful woman waiting for him in bed.  He must come up with some lie or anything that would make him challenge fear head on before the fornicating and who would imagine such a story?

You have to give Mario Monicelli’s credit for creating a hilarious, fun and titillating film that does become farfetched but because we know that this kind of urge that Andrea has can land him in big trouble, we wonder if the suave playboy will make it to the end.

This is a sexy comedy that Mastroianni literally hits the ball out of the ballpark with his performance.  A true Casanova with a libido problem… And Mario Monicelli does a great job of building the storyline with efficacy thanks to the beautiful women and the comedy presented throughout the film.

If you are looking for a film that showcases Italian sexual comedy, you can’t go wrong with “Casanova ’70″!  And while Mario Monicelli is known for many great films in his oeuvre, “Casanova ’70″ is a worthy addition to Kino Lorber’s “Great Italian Director’s Collection” DVD Box Set, especially as it is totally opposite compared to the more darker and deeper Michelangelo Antonioni film “Story of a Love Affair” included in the set.  But whether you buy this film as part of the DVD box set or on its own via Blu-ray, it’s a film that is definitely worth watching!

“Casanova ’70″ is a sensuous Italian comedy film from the King of Italian comedies worth recommending!

And so, that is my feelings of the three films presented in the “Great Italian Directors Collection” DVD Box Set.  And while it is quite subjective of what one may feel towards these films, if anything, people get a chance to sample some of the work of legendary Italian filmmakers.

Sure, “Boccaccio ’70” only offers a small wee bit of the work of Fellini, Visconti, De Sica and Monicelli and sure, there is no Roberto Rosselini, Sergio Leone,  Ettore Scola, Dario Argento, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, Mario Bava, Sergio Corbucci, Lucio Fulci, Marco Ferreri (although he does star in “Casanova ’70” as a character), Elio Petri, Ermanno Olmi and Umberto Lenzi… but hopefully this DVD Box Set does well enough to encourage future volumes and feature the work of these other notable Italian filmmakers.

But for those who want to experience Antonioni’s first full-length feature, experience a sexual comedy by Mario Monicelli or an anthology by Fellini, Visconti, De Sica and Monicelli will find Kino Lorber’s “Great Italian Directors Collection” gratifying, enjoyable and definitely recommended!

 

 

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