What's new

Blu-ray Review Fellini Satyricon Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
24,557
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
Fellini Satyricon Blu-ray Review

Having already given us a tour of hedonistic modern-day Rome with La Dolce Vita, director Federico Fellini decided on a lascivious return to Italy, this time of the ancient variety by bringing to the screen his Satyricon, a disjointed, patchwork picaresque using bits and pieces of Nero arbiter Petronius' legendary sociological comic farce with much added material from the writer-director. Though critic/social commentator Parker Tyler once observed that Satyricon was the "most profoundly homosexual movie in all history" (and this after having seen The Boys in the Band released around the same time), it's really nothing of the sort. Fellini’s epoch drama captures the polysexual ambiance and overall barbarism of its era quite well enough, but with one of cinema's most notorious heterosexuals at its helm, there isn’t really much erotic about the movie no matter which characters are paired together at any given moment. The sexuality portrayed in the film in which everyone accepts sexual urgings without questioning any inherent morality and without prejudice is only part of a larger picture of a world Fellini is showing that is almost totally alien to our own.



Studio: Criterion

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Audio: Other

Subtitles: English

Rating: R

Run Time: 2 Hr. 10 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

keep case

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 02/24/2015

MSRP: $39.95




The Production Rating: 4/5

There are several keys necessary to getting the most out of Satyricon. First, one must not force a story upon it. There is a thread of a plot where we as observers follow around a scalawag student Encolpius (Martin Potter) for a series of misadventures in ancient Italy. He begins searching for a slave boy Giton (Max Born) whom he loves but who has been stolen away from him by onetime friend Ascyltus (Hiram Keller). Though he does eventually find him, the boy voluntarily chooses to go off with Ascyltus once again even though he had previously sold him to the actor Vernacchio (Fanfulla) to use in his comedies. Once they’re separated for a second time, Encolpius’ actions become less about finding Giton rather than simply experiencing life as it happens to him in a series of escapades where he’s a guest at a lavish orgy, captured as a slave for and then married to a great Roman general Lichas (Alain Cuny), vandalizes a temple by stealing a demi-god hermaphrodite, fights a minotaur in a labyrinth, becomes impotent and must seek a cure, and so on. But squeezing a plot out of the film’s 130 minutes is a rather frustrating endeavor and is not recommended. As the narrative is thin and the characterizations rather one dimensional and unvarying, aspects that one routinely appreciates in most films are not really what this film is about.

Secondly, the film’s pacing is glacial. Writer-director Federico Fellini is attempting to present the ancient world not as a precursor to our own but rather as an entity completely foreign to our own, and to do that, he spends long periods, for example, basking in an orgy/banquet sequence or a ritual suicide at a villa or a temple where worshipers bring the sick and afflicted or the brothel called the Garden of Delights so we can observe behaviors, customs, and visages of a time and a place which have little or no bearing on modern civilization (Fellini makes no effort to make connections to modern day parallels; he leaves that to an audience if it's interested in doing so). In his customary way, Fellini has hired people with interesting or fascinating faces and body types and then revels in their individuality. All sizes, shapes, and colors (with makeup augmenting natural flesh tones by Rino Carbone) are ripe for his camera, and the costuming by Danilo Donati and production design by Dontai and Luigi Scaccianoce then completes the mise-en-scene Fellini is trying to capture.

Besides the slender storyline and the measured pacing, one must also not go into Satyricon expecting to be erotically titillated. While there are heterosexual and homosexual pairings and even threesomes of multiple descriptions, sexual dalliance really isn’t of interest to the director (nor, for that matter, are the usual stagings of debauchery which often accompany Hollywood renditions of the ancient world, particularly during the Roman era of Nero and immediately afterward). He seems to be more interested in capturing the looks, the flavors, and the textures of life in the period: a mock burial, for example, so a rich man can see how his household would react to his passing, a walk around an art gallery to show the citizenry’s lack of interest in the fine arts, the tone and tenor of the bathhouses and the tenements of the time. The script by Fellini and Bernardino Zapponi often takes unexpected segues from a sequence to start a parable or myth only to return to where it was before in a few minutes. Such jarring interruptions would be unthinkable in most films, but it’s just a fact of life with Satyricon.

With the voices of the principals dubbed by uncredited Italian actors, one must simply say that Fellini has chosen his porcelain three principal actors for their looks alone, and if Martin Potter, Hiram Keller, and Max Born sometimes seem more of their era than those of ancient times, they do as the Maestro has instructed and convey appropriately what is needed in any particular scene. For the more flamboyant characters, actors Salvo Randone as an aging poet, Mario Romagnoli as the wealthy man, Magali Noël as his dancing wife, Fanfulla as the famously farting actor Vernacchio, and Alain Cuny as the Roman general all convey wonderfully the demands of their parts. The most famous name in the cast for English-speaking audiences is Capucine who plays the wife of Alain Cuny’s general. She’s given next to nothing to do in that sequence and makes little impression except to look lovely.



Video Rating: 5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film’s Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully reproduced in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Taken from the camera negative and scanned in 4K, the results are stunning to behold with sharpness superb and color eye-poppingly gorgeous with its rich, saturated hues and complete control without any instances of blooming. Contrast has also been consistently maintained resulting in deep black levels and superb shadow detail. No age-related specks, dirt, or scratches which have been seen in prints and other prior home video releases are present here. The white English subtitles are very easy to read. The movie has been divided into 25 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4.5/5

The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is typical for its era. Since the film was post-synched, there is often that flat sound associated with this kind of dubbing after the fact, though sound effects and occasional music cues by Nino Rota, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Tod Dockstader, and Andrew Rudin blend with the dialogue effortlessly. Age-related artifacts like hissing, thumps, pops, and crackle have been completely eliminated.



Special Features Rating: 5/5

Audio Commentary: Eileen Lanouette Hughes’ 1971 book On the Set of ‘Fellini Satyricon’ is read by Emily Ackerman in counterpoint to the movie in this track and makes a wonderfully effective commentary to what is on the screen.

Ciao, Federico! (1:00:15, HD): a 1970 documentary about the famous director’s life and career with behind-the-scenes views during the filming of Satyricon. Directed by Gideon Bachmann.

Three Fellini Interviews (HD): a 1969 audio interview with Gideon Bachmann (10:48), a 1969 French television interview (1:38), and a 1975 interview with Gene Shalit (2:08).

Giuseppe Rotunno Interview (7:38, HD): the famed cinematographer in 2011 discusses the pleasures and difficulties of working with Fellini especially on Satyricon.

Fellini and Petronius (23:51, HD): educator Joanna Paul and adviser Luca Canali discuss impressions of the film compared to the original work and other influences on Fellini that suggested various set pieces in the movie.

Mary Ellen Mark Interview (12:57, HD): Look magazine photographer took pictures on the set for a month and discusses her experiences covering the movie.

Felliniana (HD) a step-through gallery of Don Young’s memorabilia collection on the movie

Theatrical Trailer (2:24, HD)

Enclosed Pamphlet: contains cast and crew lists, information of the transfer, and film author Michael Wood’s essay on the production.

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: 4.5/5

A fresco of ancient times come to life is perhaps the best way to briefly describe the singularity that is Fellini Satyricon. With a stunning visual and audio presentation and Criterion’s usual superb collection of fascinating bonus material, this one comes with a hearty endorsement.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


Support HTF when you buy this title:

 

bujaki

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2012
Messages
6,181
Location
Richardson, TX
Real Name
Jose Ortiz-Marrero
I saw this in an English-dubbed version (whose voices were used are unknown to me), with Spanish subtitles that translated the original Italian dialogue. I became aware of this when I saw the Italian version and the English subs translated the original dialogue, and my then elephantine memory connected both sets of subtitles.
 

Bob Cashill

Premium
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Aug 15, 2001
Messages
3,732
The Eureka MOC Region B Blu will have the English dub as an option. I think the Criterion LD had it, too; don't know why it was dropped.
 

Brian McP

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jul 29, 2007
Messages
504
Real Name
Brian
For any Sharon Tate completists out there, this set has probably the rarest of any of her film appearances and sadly, her last.


Ciao, Federico! (1:00:15, HD): a 1970 documentary about the famous director’s life and career with behind-the-scenes views during the filming of Satyricon. Directed by Gideon Bachmann.


This documentary includes film of a brief visit from Sharon with Roman Polanski to the Satyricon set where Roman urges Fellini to go on a new ride both had taken on their last visit to Disneyland, The Pirates of the Caribbean.


The vhs tape of this movie is long out of print and was getting big bucks until recently -- I only managed to see this documentary by getting a secondhand Criterion Laserdisc boxset of Fellini Satyricon, slowly decending into laser rot -- the documentary is pretty heavy going (as is the movie but if you're a Fellini fan, you'll love every second), but this short sequence is an unexpected treat and worth remembering.
 

Darby67

Screenwriter
Joined
Dec 4, 2009
Messages
1,593
Real Name
Sean
Matt:


Thank you for the thorough review! I will be purchasing the DVD version at the next Barnes & Noble 50% off Criterion sale.


Darby
 

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
24,557
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
Brian McP said:
For any Sharon Tate completists out there, this set has probably the rarest of any of her film appearances and sadly, her last.


Ciao, Federico! (1:00:15, HD): a 1970 documentary about the famous director’s life and career with behind-the-scenes views during the filming of Satyricon. Directed by Gideon Bachmann.


This documentary includes film of a brief visit from Sharon with Roman Polanski to the Satyricon set where Roman urges Fellini to go on a new ride both had taken on their last visit to Disneyland, The Pirates of the Caribbean.


The vhs tape of this movie is long out of print and was getting big bucks until recently -- I only managed to see this documentary by getting a secondhand Criterion Laserdisc boxset of Fellini Satyricon, slowly decending into laser rot -- the documentary is pretty heavy going (as is the movie but if you're a Fellini fan, you'll love every second), but this short sequence is an unexpected treat and worth remembering.

Yes, they're there, and thanks for mentioning them. The thing I found the most entertaining about the documentary is that the three or four scenes that they show Fellini staging and shooting come across so effortlessly in the film, but you can see so clearly what a struggle it is for people to deliver what he wants in take after take.
 

bujaki

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2012
Messages
6,181
Location
Richardson, TX
Real Name
Jose Ortiz-Marrero
Matt,

You omitted any reference to the most beautiful sequence in the film, devoid of excess, albeit ending in a terrible note. I refer to the sequence with Lucia Bose and her husband. It's idyllic until its conclusion. A respite, almost, from the unrelenting assault on the senses.
 

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
24,557
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
I did mention the ritual suicide sequence in passing, but I didn't perhaps do it the justice you have just done it. Bravo!
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
351,037
Messages
4,939,743
Members
142,967
Latest member
Psychopasta
Recent bookmarks
0
Top