Comedy ruled the box office in Italy from the late 1950s to the 1970s where the commedia all’italiana also found critical success. Great talent behind and in front of the camera delivered a series of brilliant films that gave an incredible spin on familiar genres with comedic overtones that often held a dark and biting critique of social mores that would provoke a challenge to a society in need of change. Feted at local awards ceremonies and European festivals as well as garnering attention from the Academy Awards this prestige would propel the films and filmmakers to international stardom but many would go unreleased in the UK for home viewing. At last, this ongoing series shines a light on this misunderstood filmmaking style with the first collection focusing on three films by master director Dino Risi, presented from new restorations and featuring a suite of contextualising extras.
The first dual-layer disc in Radiance’s second box set, Commedia all'italiana: Three Films by Dino Risi, presents Risi’s Il vedovo, delivered in the aspect ratio of about 1.70:1. The disc is locked to Region B, meaning North American viewers will require a Blu-ray player that can playback Region B content.
The notes indicate that the 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a 2K scan of fine-grain lavender print. I’m not sure when this scan and restoration were done, but this does look like a DVD-era master, rife with the expected artifacts. Black levels often appear milky with a limited grayscale, further flattening the image. The image can look sharp around the edges, and I can’t recall a moment where it goes too soft, but the finer details never leap out with motion blur obliterating whatever little bit is there. Film grain is there to a degree, but it’s not well defined and has a clumpier appearance, almost certainly thanks to crummy compression baked into the original master. Ringing and faint halos around objects further hinder things, and the same can be said for the slight shimmering that pops up in tighter patterns.
Radiance has done what they can with it, and it looks to be encoded well, at least; it’s just hard to hide what’s baked into the older base master.
The film is presented with a lossless 2-channel PCM soundtrack. There can be a slight distortion in the highs, and dynamic range is limited (thanks in part, I’m sure, to the dubbed dialogue), but I don’t recall any severe damage.
The box set features a wonderful array of material spread across the three discs, though sadly, Il vedovo’s disc receives the fewest number and nothing that I would consider specific to the film itself. Kat Ellinger assembles a rather good 34-minute video essay to start things off. Though technically an overview of actor Alberto Sordi’s career, it also veers into other topics, including how Italian comedies satirized or played off the idea of “classic masculinity.” This leads into an examination of how Sordi played these characters, Ellinger walking us through a number of his notable roles that include his early works with Fellini (The White Sheik and I vitelloni), The Art of Getting Along, The Great War, Il vedovo and more.
I thought it was a nicely constructed appreciation of the actor that also examines character tropes commonly found in Commedia all'italiana. Additionally, on that front, Radiance next provides a new video essay introducing audiences to the subgenre aptly entitled Comedy Italian Style and created by Rémi Fournier Lanzoni. On top of explaining what distinguished commedia all'italiana from other comedy styles (the prominent attribute being their ability to address socially sensitive topics through the guise of comedy), Lanzoni also goes over its roots in Italian Neorealism. He brings up some notable films, actors, and filmmakers while also reviewing common narrative devices. It’s a solid introduction, though, as the opening titles state, does spoil the films in the set, so it may be wise to return to it after viewing all three.
The disc then closes with the film’s trailer.
Together, the features provide a terrific introduction to the set and the subgenre, but the film itself (probably the darkest of the three) falls by the wayside.
It's not the strongest title here, stuck with a weak, older presentation and sparse extras, but it still sets one up for the rest of the set.