Bandits of Orgosolo

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Synopsis

A Sardinian peasant is suspected of murder following an encounter with bandits. In order to survive, he has no option but to turn to banditry himself. Winning multiple awards at the Venice Film Festival, Bandits of Orgosolo continues the traditions of Visconti and De Sica, yet with his own style and rhythms, Vittorio De Seta musters just as much power as the earlier masters. Despite awards and plaudits on release this incredible film only now makes its debut on home video. Upon release, Bandits moved Martin Scorsese to observe: "It was as if De Seta were an anthropologist who spoke with the voice of a poet."

Picture 9/10

Radiance Films presents Vittorio De Seta’s Bandits of Orgosolo in North America on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc, maintaining its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 4K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative.

The presentation looks absolutely superb. The restoration work has cleaned this up spectacularly, leaving behind only a few minor source-related imperfections. The 4K scan has captured unbelievable levels of detail, while the final encode perfectly renders it all out, right down to the very fine grain. There is an incredible photographic texture, further enhanced by the gorgeous grayscale, which delivers a broad range of grays, best showcased in the long shots featuring the sky. Black levels are also remarkably deep without swallowing up shadows (where the photography allows), and whites look pristine without blooming.

In the end, it’s a simply gorgeous presentation, far exceeding my expectations.

Audio 6/10

The film’s monaural Italian soundtrack is delivered in 2-channel lossless PCM. Since everything was looped in during post-production, there is a certain detachment and hollowness to the audio, but the soundtrack remains clean with no signs of distortion. And if the dubbed voice of the main character sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that: Gian Maria Volonté provided the dubbing, as confirmed by Ehsan Khoshbakht in an included interview.

Extras 4/10

When it comes to the special features for the North American edition of this film, Radiance sadly had their hands tied. The UK edition includes ten short documentary films by the director on a second disc. Unfortunately, Criterion owns the rights to these films in North America, so Radiance was unable to include them here.

I’ve gone through the disc included with the UK edition, and the shorts are rather incredible (with nice, if Ritrovata’d, restorations). They feature elements that would later appear in the feature film, making their absence all the more unfortunate.

At the very least, Radiance includes a couple of solid new interviews alongside a restored trailer. The first is an 11-minute interview with curator and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht, who discusses the film’s background, its mix of documentary and fictional elements, and how it revitalized Italian Neorealism (he describes the film as a bit of a “riff” on Bicycle Thieves). Radiance also presents a new 28-minute interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, who talks about his schooling and background before diving into the details of working with De Seta on the film. This collaboration came about after De Seta filmed in the area for a couple of documentaries, feeling that only a feature film could properly capture everything. Tovoli also touches on the photography, with some of these details covered in the included booklet’s essay by Roberto Curti. Interestingly, there seems to have been some contention over the cinematographer credit, leading to Tovoli being credited as “camera operator” and De Seta as the cinematographer.

Overall, the interviews are good, but knowing that another edition of the film includes the shorts makes them feel underwhelming. If possible, I’d recommend importing Radiance’s UK edition.

Closing

The disc delivers a wonderful presentation, far exceeding expectations. It’s just unfortunate Radiance couldn’t include the short films.

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Directed by: Vittorio De Seta
Year: 1961
Time: 95 min.
 
Series: Radiance Films
Edition #: 56
Release Date: June 25 2024
MSRP: $39.95
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
Italian 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B/C
 
 New interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (2024, 28 mins)   New interview with curator and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht (2024, 11 mins)   Trailer   Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by Roberto Curti