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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Italian PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • That's Life: Vittorio De Sica, a fifty-five-minute documentary made for Italian television in 2001
  • Video interview with actress Maria Pia Casilio from 2003
  • Trailer

Umberto D.

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Memmo Carotenuto
1952 | 89 Minutes | Licensor: Gruppo Mediaset

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #201
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: September 4, 2012
Review Date: September 3, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

This neorealist masterpiece by Vittorio De Sica follows the daily life of an elderly pensioner as he struggles to make ends meet during Italy's postwar economic recovery. Alone except for his dog, Flike, Umberto is determined to maintain his dignity in a city where human kindness seems to have been swallowed up by the forces of modernization. His simple quest to satisfy his most fundamental needs-food, shelter, companionship-makes for one of the most heartbreaking stories ever filmed, and an essential classic of world cinema.

Forum members rate this film 9.3/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion upgrades their previous DVD edition of Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. to Blu-ray, presenting the film in the aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 on this dual-layer disc. The transfer is shown in 1080p/24hz.

Comparing the notes about the transfers between the DVD and Blu-ray editions respectively, the Blu-ray’s notes say that we are getting a new transfer here, stating that the transfer was made from the original camera negative whereas the DVD’s notes state its transfer came from a 35mm fine-grain master positive. This may be the case but I have to admit, short of a few adjustments, they still manage to look very similar and have, in a lot of cases, the same issues.

The clean-up job on the Blu-ray is certainly better in comparison to the DVD. There were plenty of jumps and jitters in the original DVD that are now gone, though the opening titles still have a slight jitter. A lot of the marks are also gone yet some scratches and tramlines remain. Still, some of the damage that remains looks to be about the same as what we get on the DVD. There’s one short sequence, that has Umberto walk a former colleague to the bus, where the image quality degrades noticeably, the image becomes more grainy and is littered with plenty of scratches: this sequence, and others like it, look identical between the DVD and Blu-ray, though the Blu-ray’s improved resolution actually makes the finer scratches that much clearer.

More than likely all of these issues are inherent in the original negative and the fine grain used for the previous DVD just picked up all of these things. And while in certain regards the transfers between the DVD—which looked pretty good to begin with—and Blu-ray look similar there’s no denying the Blu-ray’s video comes out way ahead. Admittedly some may be more than happy with the DVD but the high-definition presentation here delivers far sharper image with finer details coming through quite a bit clearer, long shots looking a bit sharper and not as fuzzy, better rendering of the film’s grain structure, and fewer artifacts. The standard-definition transfer on the DVD was pretty clean but there were instances where pixilation, noise, or edge halos would appear. All of those artifacts are now gone and the transfer keeps very natural, filmic look.

So despite some similarities the Blu-ray does still come out ahead. The improvements are not substantial but they’re noticeable enough.

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

Criterion hands us a lossless PCM 1.0 mono track that sounds fine enough though is nothing special, limited by the film’s age and source materials. Dialogue sounds clear but the track overall is flat, and the opening music is a bit edgy and harsh, similar to the DVD.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion has moved most of the supplements over from their DVD edition to their new Blu-ray. The first is the 55-minute documentary That's Life: Vittorio De Sica, which I will note also appears in Arrows Blu-ray release of De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. This documentary goes through the film career of De Sica, touching on most of his films, even offering behind-the-scenes bits in some parts. Its structure is a little odd, editing together De Sica interviews in an attempt to go through his career but it works. While it's very informative and fairly quick, I was disappointed that there wasn’t much on Umberto D. itself, especially since it was apparently De Sica’s favourite film, which is mentioned in the documentary as well. Still, for those looking for an excellent primer on the director this one is perfect. It is also divided into 10 chapters.

An interesting 12-minute interview featuring Maria Pia Casilio, the woman who played the young maid, is also included. She discusses how she actually came to take on the part and also talks a bit about De Sica the man. It’s brief but worth viewing.

Added to this release is the film’s 4-minute theatrical trailer, which starts off by advertising De Sica’s previous films.

The release’s booklet then contains a number of essays starting with an essay on the film by Stuart Klawans. It is then followed by a piece written by De Sica about the film and concludes with a short piece by actor Carlo Battisti and his fondness for the character of Umberto D.

Unfortunately a few things have not made it from the DVD. The DVD’s insert included the Klawans essay and the piece by De Sica. Battisti’s piece was actually a text supplement included on the disc and was accompanied by two other short pieces: one by writer Umberto Eco, who talks a bit about the film’s cold reception, and there was another short set by assistant director Luisa Alessandri, who adds a couple of anecdotes. Why these don’t appear here in the new booklet as well I can’t say, but they’re disappointing omissions.

Despite the lack of these two text essays, though, and the fact that it still has a premium price point with just over an hour’s worth of content, what we do get is still solid. But I still do wish that Criterion felt inclined to maybe add more scholarly material, whether from those fond of the film, or the detractors that find it too sentimental. It still feels like a great opportunity lost.

5/10

CLOSING

I’m still disappointed that Criterion hasn’t gone a more scholarly route with this release, while also dropping a couple of decent text supplements, one of which got into more detail about the film’s disastrous reception. But the presentation is strong, if not overwhelmingly better than the DVD’s.


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