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    3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Criterion

    Sep 23 2013 01:26 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    The scandal and infamous notoriety surrounding the personal and professional collaboration between international film star Ingrid Bergman and Italian neorealist maestro Roberto Rossellini belong in a time and place well more than half a century removed from the present day. With all of that gossip and outrage much beside the point and faded into the mists of time, what we’re left with are several films, three of which make up this latest box set from Criterion: 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman, none of which were particularly successful at the box-office in their day but all of which make up a fascinating chapter in the careers of both of these revered filmmakers.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Criterion
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono), Other
    • Subtitles: English
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 8 Hr. 38 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: individual book-like cases for each film inside a slipcase
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 09/24/2013
    • MSRP: $99.95

    The Production Rating: 3/5

    Stromboli – 2.5/5

    Lithuanian refugee Karin (Ingrid bergman) agrees to a hasty marriage to young Italian fisherman Antonio (Mario Vitale) in order to escape the harsh conditions of the Italian interment camp. He takes her to the Mediterranean island of Stromboli, basically a volcanic rock, to live in very primitive conditions. Karin resists trying to make a go of things from the beginning, but a local priest (Renzo Cesana) implores her to try to find happiness in making a home and a life with her new husband even though the surrounding villagers don’t really seem to like her very much. She gives it her best shot: she decorates their home, she tries to take an interest in his life as a fisherman, but no matter what attempts she makes, she manages to make someone, either her husband or the village women, upset with her. When she finds herself pregnant and with the island’s volcano finally erupting causing damage to her home and her fragile mental state, she realizes she has to escape, to bring her child up in a different environment, but apart from the friendly lighthouse keeper (Mario Sponza), there is no one who will come to her aid.

    Rossellini’s melodramatic scenario seems borrowed somewhat from King Vidor’s Beyond the Forest which also featured an unhappy wife who’ll do just about anything to get away from her husband and make a life in a more congenial locale (in her case Chicago). The director gets a lot of mileage from the isolated location: there’s a wonderful sequence where Bergman frantically zips through the town’s streets looking for anything positive shot from above by the director and making her appear as if she’s a mouse trapped in an unfathomable maze, and there are two action sequences of a sort: the volcano’s eruption and the fishermen landing a huge tuna haul which suggests a documentary style similar to Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran. Bergman tries to give the film some dramatic validity flirting with both the priest and the lighthouse keeper to try to get help from them for an escape and later giving herself over to God to show her the way to salvation, but she’s defeated by the patchwork script and an emotional trajectory for her character that’s all over the map.

    Europe ’51 – 3.5/5

    After the tragic death of her son Michel (Sandro Franchina), Irene Girard (Ingrid Bergman) begins to plumb the depths of her soul trying to understand her role in his death and what steps she can take now that he’s gone to rectify her guilt. Her cousin Andrea (Ettore Giannini), an avowed Communist, urges her to fight with him to bring equality to the masses, but Irene instead thinks great change can be generated not through politics but though a deep spiritual mission to help those in need. She aids a poor woman (Giulietta Masina) with six children by subbing for her at her factory job. She nurses a consumptive prostitute (Teresa Pellati). And she advises a bank robber trying to escape justice to turn himself in (which he does after she is arrested by the police for letting the robber go). Irene’s wealthy husband (Alexander Knox) can’t understand his wife’s complete devotion to her spiritual mission which has left her no time for him, so he’s completely satisfied to let the authorities put his wife in a mental institution since her new life of selflessness is clearly to them a sign of madness.

    Roberto Rossellini’s story of modern society’s reaction to a Francis of Assisi-like saint is satirical to the point of absurdity. One gets his point: people who are too good to be true can’t be part of the normal world, but it’s ridiculous to think that Irene could have stopped the bank robber who had a gun and would be locked away for trying to advise him to give himself up. Much better are the film’s first two-thirds which show us the progression of Irene’s demeanor from a frivolous society grand dame to a true sister of mercy. The scenes with Irene working for the lower class citizens of Rome echo Rossellini’s neorealist roots, but the picture painted of the upper class with Irene’s husband, mother, cousin, doctor, and even a priest with whom she debates moral issues with the priest coming off as callous and selfish push satire past the breaking point. Ingrid Bergman again gives the role her all, effective in her sorrow and guilt over the death of her son and becoming the picture of calm as she copes with atrocities the lower class endures as her eyes become opened. But her acceptance of her treatment by the people who supposedly love her is ridiculously unbelievable.

    Journey to Italy – 3/5

    Arriving in Naples for the first time to sell a remarkable villa owned by their late Uncle Homer, Katherine (Ingrid Bergman) and Alex (George Sanders) Joyce have a few days on their hands before they must return to England. While in a strange locale with customs they’re unfamiliar with, the couple whose shaky marriage had been camouflaged by their busy activities in London now must come face to face with their decided lack of compatibility. They go their separate ways for several days: she to investigate the splendid museums, the ruins of Pompeii, and, of course, Vesuvius while he and some younger acquaintances go to the Isle of Capri to drink and possibly find romantic fulfillment. Though the words the couple hurl at each other range from cold indifference to envious rage, the word “divorce” finally becomes the central part of the discussion between the two of them.

    The travelogue aspects of Rossellini’s story as Katherine avidly explores the area give the film a giant lift since the central story of this unhappy couple isn’t really explored in any real depth and is resolved in a rather ridiculous fashion. As the couple is initially introduced to this gorgeous villa and walk out on a terrace with Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples astoundingly as their backyard view, it’s hard to believe this wealthy couple wouldn’t want to call off the sale and move here permanently. As the tension between them grows as they watch one another flirt with those who are naturally attracted to them, again it becomes clear there is more to their connection than they’re willing to admit or their writer-director is willing to explore, but the film doesn’t ever really go there. Alex has an earnest forward pass at Marie (Maria Mauban) deflected and later picks up a streetwalker (Anna Proclemer) for another scene of unsatisfactorily missed opportunities. Leslie Daniels makes a very positive impression as the couple’s guide on the area’s customs.

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    Stromboli – 3/5

    Both the English language and Italian language versions of the film are framed at their original 1.37:1 aspect ratio and are presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness comes and goes in the film cobbled together as it has been from numerous sources over the years. The grayscale is likewise variable with blacks that are only average and whites that are sometimes blown out due to erratic contrast. There is banding to be seen, an occasional example of false contouring, a noticeable hair, and some scratches that haven’t been removed. The subtitles are in white and are always easy to read. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.

    Europe ’51 – 4/5

    Though the 1.37:1 (AVC codec) transfer has a fair share of light damage and a troublesome black scratch that comes and goes, sharpness is improved from Stromboli (though long shots continue to be problematic on occasion), and the grayscale is also more solid: fewer blooming whites and a slightly deeper black level and more consistent and pleasing contrast. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters, and the white subtitles when used are easy to read.

    Journey to Italy – 4.5/5

    This film has by far the most pleasing and commendable transfer (1:37 aspect ratio using the AVC codec). Apart from some slight line twitter on occasion, the image is solid: sharp, clear, and with superb contrast that’s never too hot. That makes for an exceptionally pleasing grayscale with clear whites and fine black levels (if not exceptionally deep). The film has been divided into 15 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    Stromboli – 3/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mixes on both versions of the movie have been cleaned up as best they can though there is still some low level hiss to be heard on occasion and some flutter, too. The dialogue was post synched, so there is that flat, dry element to the sound that offers rather tinny fidelity even during the volcano and tuna catching sequences, and sometimes the dialogue in English isn’t always discernible with volume levels varying sometimes during dialogue scenes.

    Europe ’51 – 3.5/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix has had a more successful clean-up job than Stromboli as there is little to no hiss present nor any other age-related audio anomalies. Much of the movie was post synched but not all of it, and the scenes with Bergman and Alexander Knox speaking English sound so much more natural than scenes they play with Italian actors where everything is dubbed in a tinnier, more lifeless manner that drains spark out of the scenes.

    Journey to Italy – 3.5/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is post synched even with the two English speaking leading players, and that flat, arid quality to the dialogue is most prominent. The music which mixes background score and quite a few southern Italian folk songs has better than average fidelity, and the restoration has done a fine job eliminating hiss, pops, crackle, and flutter from the original sound elements.

    Special Features: 5/5


    Stromboli terra di Dio (1:40:30, HD): the Italian language version of the film.

    Introduction by Roberto Rossellini (1:57, HD): filmed for French television in 1963, the director states the film’s basic plot before it is screened.

    Adriano Aprà Interview (16:34, HD): the critic offers the backstory of the Rossellini/Bergman meeting and the working relationship on the film along with discussing the movie’s themes and motifs. This was recorded in 2011.

    Rossellini Under the Volcano (45:07, HD): a 1998 documentary where members of the cast and crew return to the island half a century after filming to tour various locations and discuss memories of making the movie.

    Europe ’51

    Europa ’51 (1:58:21, HD): the Italian language version of the film.

    Introduction by Roberto Rossellini (4:58, HD): filmed for French television in 1963, the director states the film’s basic plot before it is screened.

    Adriano Aprà Interview (18:26, HD): the critic focuses on Rossellini’s themes in the film in this 2011 interview.

    Elena Dagrada Interview (36:07, HD): the critic and Rossellini expert discusses his career up to the time of Europe ’51 and then does a series of comparisons discussing the many varying versions of the movie that were released nationally and internationally with multiple film clips in side-by-side split screen motifs to show the differences.

    Journey to Italy

    Introduction by Roberto Rossellini (2:10, HD): filmed for French television in 1963, the director recounts the film’s basic plot before it is screened.

    Audio Commentary: film historian Laura Mulvey offers a very laconic analysis of the film: interesting and worthwhile, but her very slow cadence may put off some listeners.

    Adriano Aprà Interview (11:03, HD): the critic focuses on the origins of Rossellini’s idea for the story and discusses the film’s third main character – Naples – in this 2011 interview.

    Ingrid and Isabella Rossellini Interview (31:59, HD): the fraternal twins separately recall memories of their parents and each offers critiques of special moments in each of the three films in this set.

    Martin Scorsese Interview (11:12, HD): a 2013 interview with the master director finds him weighing in on his views on the three movies and their place in the overall careers of the director and his leading lady.

    Living and Departed (22:37, HD): critic Tag Gallagher analyzes Journey to Italy and then makes connections and parallels to the other two films in the set.

    Surprised by Death (38:56, HD): critic James Quant offers his own analysis of the three films’ similarities in themes and story, and makes parallels to the plots of the films as reflected in the personal lives of the director and his star.

    The Rossellinis on Capri (5:17, HD): an Italian newsreel from 1953 detailing the director, the star, and their family arriving on Capri to begin shooting.

    Additional Supplemental Disc

    Rossellini Through His Own Eyes (1:02:33, HD): a 1992 documentary composed of various interviews made by Rossellini talking about his craft and his movies and a generous array of clips from his theatrical and television projects.

    Ingrid Bergman Remembered (50:07, HD): a 1996 documentary narrated by Bergman’s daughter Pia Lindstrom about the life and work of her illustrious mother.

    G. Fiorella Mariani Interview (14:49, HD): an interview with Rossellini’s niece who has fond remembrances of her uncle and Ingrid Bergman and shares home movies taken during their years together.

    My Dad Is 100 Years Old (17:02, HD): a film directed in 2005 by Greg Maddin and featuring Isabella Rossellini paying tribute to her dad by acting the roles of many of the famous people in her father’s life.

    The Chicken (16:03, HD): a short film directed by Rossellini with Ingrid Bergman playing herself being plagued by a neighbor’s chicken ruining her rose garden.

    Seventy-Nine Page Booklet: contains the cast and crew lists for all the films, a succession of stills from the movies, two essays on Stromboli by Dina lordanova and Elena Dagrada, one each on Europe ’51 (by Fred Camper) and Journey to Italy (by Paul Thomas), the first exchange of letters between Bergman and Rossellini, Rossellini’s defense of his work on Stromboli, and two sets of interviews between the director and a pair of critics.

    Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman brings these three now widely heralded films to a wider audience in high definition editions that are greatly improved from prints which have been circulating for years (one look at the clips from the films in the various documentaries in this set proves their tremendous improvement through restoration). Fans of the star and the director will be eager to sample these interesting attempts to mix neorealist tendencies with more commercial filmmaking directives.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    My favorite is Journey To Italy and will get the box set. Was going to put away my Korean made dvd but it has the english voices of George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman and not dubbed in to Italian.  I find it alittle hard to get used to Sanders speaking Italian in the movie.

    My favorite is Journey To Italy and will get the box set. Was going to put away my Korean made dvd but it has the english voices of George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman and not dubbed in to Italian.  I find it alittle hard to get used to Sanders speaking Italian in the movie.


    The one in the box is the English language version, so you'll hear both Bergman and Sanders speaking their own lines.

    STROMBOLI is brilliant!  

    All three movies are brilliant and hugely influential on the landscape of subsequent European films. They were mangled upon release in the USA and misunderstood, even to this day. Bergman is real, raw, a revelation.

    Stromboli, Terra di Dio, and Europa '51 are deeply religious films. I am not a believer, but I felt Rossellini's deep faith come through, just as it did in his short film Il miracolo, with Anna Magnani.

    I first saw Europa '51 when it premiered at the New York Film Festival, and at the end of the movie I remained glued to my seat, awash in tears, the final shot of Bergman's face etched indelibly in my memory. I will always thank Rossellini and Bergman for it.

    The one in the box is the English language version, so you'll hear both Bergman and Sanders speaking their own lines.

    Thanks for the info.  TCM did broadcast the movie a few months ago with Bergman and Sanders dubbed in Italian so i thought that was going to be the version on the box set.