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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Giuseppe de Santis, a 2007 documentary by screenwriter Carlo Lizzani
  • Interview with Lizzani from 2003
  • Trailer

Bitter Rice

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Giuseppe De Santis
1949 | 109 Minutes | Licensor: Cristaldi Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #792
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 12, 2016
Review Date: January 14, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

During planting season in Northern Italy's Po Valley, an earthy rice-field worker (the seductive Silvana Mangano) falls in with a small-time criminal (Vittorio Gassman) who is planning a daring heist of the crop, as well as his femme-fatale-ish girlfriend, played by the Hollywood star Doris Dowling. Both a socially conscious look at the hardships endured by underpaid field workers and a melodrama tinged with sex and violence, this early smash for producer extraordinaire Dino De Laurentiis and director Giuseppe De Santis is neorealism with a heaping dose of pulp.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection finally releases Giuseppe De Santisí neorealist-pulp hybrid Bitter Rice, presenting the film on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation was sourced from a high-def scan of the original 35mm negative.

The image looks pretty good. Seeing the film on Hulu recently shows that a lot of work went into the restoration here: whatís on Hulu is in terrible condition, littered with scratches, marks, tears, debris, splices and so on. But that isnít evident here, a majority of that damage now gone. Some problems still remain, primarily in transitions, where the image looks a bit washed while scratches and marks rain through more aggressively. The rest of the film looks pretty spectacular, though. Some very minor marks remain and some frames are missing but damage isnít a real concern here: itís been nicely cleaned up.

The transfer itself is pretty strong and itís been nicely encoded. Contrast levels are decent enough, though blacks arenít as pure as I maybe would have liked. Gray levels also blend and shift nicely. Film grain is rendered well and I didnít spot any digital anomalies. The level of detail present can be impressive in places, though this can vary throughout: most sequences are sharp, some sequences can look a tad soft around the edges, and a handful can be fairly blurry, but I think it comes down more to the source.

Though I guess it didnít necessarily blow me away on the whole, a lot of work has obviously gone into the restoration and in the end I was very pleased with what we get.

7/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film receives an adequate if unspectacular lossless linear PCM 1.0 mono track. Itís limited by the filmís age primarily and there is a generally flat tone to the whole affair, but it doesnít have any glaring issues, sounding to have been thoroughly restored itself.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

I swear this has been a title that has been promised for years yet whatever the delay was it surely wasnít because they were waiting on supplements. Because itís priced as a budget release ($29.95) I will admit we actually do get a decent set of supplements here: Other than the filmís theatrical trailer we also get a 52-minute documentary on Giuseppe De Santis and a short 6-minute interview with screenwriter Carlo Lizzani, recorded for another DVD release in 2002. Both are fine, the lengthy documentary put together by Lizzani (obviously upscaled from a standard-definition source) covering the directorís career, avoiding the usual pitfalls of these types of things by focusing primarily on his work rather than getting caught up in his personal life. Of course it only focuses a small bit on Bitter Rice and its production while Lizzaniís interview focuses primarily on the film. A little surprising is how Silvana Manganoís role was actually considerably smaller initially, with De Santis beefing it up once he saw she had an incredible presence (honestly, itís really bizarre to think the film could have existed without her character).

Though both features are decent and nice to get with the lower price, itís disappointing that we donít get any scholarly additions short of the essay by Pasquale Iannone featured in the fold out insert. Said insert also features a great poster image on the reverse side. Sadly that might be my favourite part of this release. Iím happy we got something but it feels like a lot more could have been done with the release.

4/10

CLOSING

Not a spectacular release by any means, but for the price I think itís an easy recommendation. Supplements leave a bit to be desired but the presentation, which is maybe open to improvement, is still very nice.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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