DVD Review HTF REVIEW: I Vitelloni - The Criterion Collection (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Aug 26, 2004.

  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

    May 7, 2001
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    I Vitelloni
    The Criterion Collection

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1953
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 107 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: Italian
    Subtitles: English
    MSRP: $29.95
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase

    The Feature:
    August was another busy month for the folks at Criterion with a recent release of a three disc boxed set of films by Jean Renoir entitled Stage And Spectacle and includes The Golden Coach (1953), French Cancan (1955), and Elena And Her Men (1956), which lists for $79.95. David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is also due August 31st and the feature film, Federico Fellini’s third directorial project, I Vitelloni (1953) is due for release on August 24th.

    The film, an autobiography of sorts, is based on Federico Fellini's early recollections as a young man, which is rather simplistic in nature. It is a character study that centers around five young men from their small Italian village as they grow weary and come to terms with the direction their lives are taking as they struggle to find meaning.

    One of them, the main character really, Fausto (played by Franco Fabrizi), is the lady's man who gets Sandra (played by Leonora Ruffo) the girl he loves, pregnant. She happens to be the sister of one of the friends, Moraldo (played by Franco Interlenghi). Fausto and Sandra eventually get married (better late than never) and have the child but his desire for other women continues and eventually leads to him being fired after coming on to his boss’s wife, who just happens to be a friend of his father-in-law.

    Another friend, Leopoldo (played by Leopoldo Trieste), is an aspiring writer and considered to be the intellect of the group, still living at home with his difficult mother and family. The last two boys Alberto (played by Alberto Sordi) and Riccardo (played by Riccardo Fellini, Federico’s own younger brother) are showcased more on the periphery as two layabouts who really only want to drink, play pool and just hang out.

    Moraldo is the steadiest of the bunch, always calm and cool and the only one of the group with even the slightest conscience. Maturing at a rate faster than his friends, he sees Fausto's womanizing and is torn between the loyalty to his friend and the love for his sister, which constantly results in him helping Fausto to protect Sandra from the truth. Sadly he’s forced to make a decision but which will be greater; his love for his sister or his allegiance to his friend?

    After just having spent almost all of last week immersed in the Martin Scorsese Collection, there is no denying that Fellini was obviously a great influence on Scorsese. Rarely, do we sit down and watch a succession of films that are said to have been influenced by a specific director or their work and in this case, the styles and nuances are subtle but very much present. In My Voyage to Italy Scorsese names this film as a huge inspiration for his film Mean Streets. It’s also said to be a great influence of Barry Levinson’s hit film Diner (1982) and I would also include Scorsese’s first film, Who’s That Knocking At My Door to the list in a heartbeat.

    The film, typical of most Fellini films, is beautifully shot and wonderfully paced. I found it slightly slow going after the introduction of the main characters although they aren't necessarily all that well defined and in all honestly, they don’t really need to be. Noticeably absent however, are the complexities that frequently accompany other Fellini films. In the case of I Vitelloni, the film is much simpler, yet still very well crafted. I Vitelloni was an international success and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

    The Feature: 4/5

    Another gorgeous B&W transfer from Criterion. Not like gorgeous, but close. Presented in its OAR of 1.33:1, I have very few negative things to say about the video presentation.

    First off, black levels were exceptionally deep and whites were perfectly white and clean. Contrast and shadow detail were both equally impressive and the level of grayscale was exceptional.

    The level of image detail was pretty impressive, looking mostly sharp throughout with only occasional signs of slight softness. There was a slight amount of fine film grain present throughout the entire film, rendering a fine film-like image just bordering on a very slightly gritty look.

    The print was almost immaculate with only minute traces of dust or dirt particles and was free of any light speckle. There were instances, however, of some light shimmer although it was rather sporadic and never became intrusive. Thankfully, there were no issues relating to any compression errors or any edge enhancement whatsoever.

    All in all, a very impressive presentation.

    Video: 4.5/5

    Another thumbs up in the audio department. In fact, this DD Monaural track is even better than most Criterion audio releases. My biggest complaint with many of the Criterion monaural releases is the amount of hiss present on many of their vintage titles. While I’d never want to have the tonal fidelity of the track altered or tampered with in the pursuit of a “cleaner” track, I’ve always felt the amount of hiss remaining after their transfer is greater than what I like to hear. Mind you, I run electrostats all around, so I am (as a result of my system) a little more susceptible to hiss than those with conventional speakers. In this case, the amount of hiss is almost non-existent and the track sounds perfectly natural. Great job.

    As we might expect, the dynamic range of the track is wafer thin but does a better than average job at delivering the sometimes playful, sometimes sad carnival like Fellini-esque music that accompanies much of the film.

    Dialogue was always exceptionally clear and bold and was never lost during the accompanying score.

    A solid job and a better than average monaural track.

    Audio: 4/5

    Special Features:
    I Vitelloni comes in at the lower Criterion price point, so we know the disc isn’t going to be inundated with special features but those that have been included are most certainly significant, starting with:
    [*] Vitellonismo is a documentary produced by Criterion and offers up memories and reflections of Leopoldo Trieste (Leopoldo), Franco Interlenghi (Moraldo), Moraldo Rossi (Assistant Director), Fellini Biographer Tullio Kezich, Fellini friend, Vincenzo Mollica and Fellini Foundation Director, Vittorio Boarini. There’s a lot of great Fellini history and trivia thrown around here. It’s also great to see some of the original actors who appeared in the film more than 50 years ago. A worthwhile little feature. Duration: 35:10 minutes.
    [*] Theatrical Trailer is also included which is in decent shape. Duration: 3:56 minutes.
    [*] Stills – Photo Gallery is a collection of production stills, and rare behind the scene photos of the cast and crew on the set. There are literally dozens of various stills, covers and posters included.
    [*] And finally a detailed 10 page Insert is also included which features an essay by Tom Piazza and also includes cast & crew credits as well as a chapter list.

    Special Features: 3.5/5

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

    Final Thoughts:
    My wife and I watched this interesting little character study together and we both thoroughly enjoyed this film. While I don’t put this film in quite the same league as or La Strada or La Dolce Vita, it’s still a Fellini and that alone makes it better than most. Despite its 50+ years, the film is still able to elicit the genuineness about a group of young men showcasing the inherent reality of human nature as they struggle to find their way.

    Complete with a decent assortment of supplemental material and a presentation that is exquisite, fans of the film or the master himself should waste no time picking this up.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)


    Release Date: August 24th, 2004
  2. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    the video review pretty much exactly sums up my thoughts from The Egyptian early this summer when I saw this film there in a brand new restored print, so I bet it's as good as it can be.

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