Commedia all'italiana

Il sorpasso

Part of a multi-title set


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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.

Picture 9/10

For the third film in their new Blu-ray box set, Commedia all'italiana: Three Films by Dino Risi, Radiance presents Il sorpasso in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode. The disc is locked to Region B, and North American viewers will require a Blu-ray player capable of playing back Region B content. I did QC work on this title along with Il mattatore.

Much to my surprise, Radiance's 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a newer 4K restoration performed by Surf Film in 2016, taken from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative, and not the 2K one Criterion used for their 2014 North American edition. Criterion's presentation looked lovely despite a handful of source issues, and I didn't feel it required an upgrade. Revisiting it today, I still feel the same way, but Radiance's presentation impressively manages to best Criterion's in a handful of ways.

Comparing the two, I guess this new presentation can look a bit darker, but I found the contrast to come out looking a bit wider on the whole. The Criterion can look a little blown out on occasion, with details getting eaten up in the sky, whereas the broader range afforded to the grays here allows for better gradations in the sky and better details in the clouds and such. I also found some nighttime sequences to look clearer, with better shadow delineation and depth. The encoding is also notably better, with grain looking a bit cleaner and sharper, even if I don't think Criterion's looks all that bad (compared to some of their other presentations of the time, it's pretty clean).

The restoration work has again been thorough, cleaning up just about all damage, though the same can be said for Criterion's. One notable improvement regarding source materials is that (outside of some transitions between scenes) it does look like more of the film has been sourced from the original negative. Criterion's was primarily sourced from the negative as well, though a fine-grain print filled in a few scenes, including one where Italian subtitles are burned in to translate German. Those burned-in subs are now gone, and the sequence features better depth and detail. A handful of other shots that looked dupey in Criterion's presentation also look sharper and cleaner here.

In all, it offers a notable, if not significant, improvement over Criterion's already solid presentation.

Audio 6/10

The film's Italian soundtrack is presented in lossless PCM 2-channel monaural. The film is, unsurprisingly, dubbed, and that can become very obvious when lips don't synch up. Yet fidelity and range are decent, dialogue sounds clear, and sound effects are perfectly fine, even if the annoying horn that blares throughout sounds a bit artificial. There's also no severe damage or distortion to speak of.

Extras 7/10

Supplements are spread out over each title in the set. Il sorpasso receives its fair share here, starting with 13 minutes worth of footage from an interview with director Dino Risi, conducted by critic Jean Gili. Criterion also included an archival interview with the director on their edition (also performed by Gili), but this is a different one filmed five years earlier in 1999. He talks about first discovering filmmaking before getting into casting the "right face" for a film and talking about some of the themes conveyed in this film and others (like how Italians live for holidays). It's all well and good, but not as focused on the film as Criterion's archival piece. Still, I probably appreciated this interview a bit more because the director does get into what differentiates Italian comedy from other forms, referencing some of his work in the process, explaining how it is self-criticizing and self-effacing, with roots in Neorealism.

Following that is an introduction by actor Jean-Louis Trintignant. The 8-minute piece, filmed for French television before an airing of the film, is the same one Criterion includes in their edition. How he got the role still proves amusing (the original actor, Jacques Perrin, suffered an injury, and Trintignant just happened to look like his stand-in), and he seems grateful for getting it, expressing a genuine fondness for the film and his co-star, Vittorio Gassman.

Radiance then includes a new appreciation of the film by Italian cinema expert Richard Dyer, who admits how he wasn't particularly impressed by the film after finally getting around to seeing it, finding it too "straightforward." Upon repeat viewings, however, he realized the film had a lot more to it, and he talks about how he has reassessed the film, looking at how it captures post-war Italy and the significance of the character of Bruno (played by Gassman), going over crucial sequences. He even takes the time to talk about the casting of Gassman and Trintingnant, the relationship between their two characters, and various other subjects. It's not long, only 22 minutes. Still, Dyer provides a relatively solid analysis of the film's strengths, peeling away and exposing what may not be immediately evident to non-Italian audiences.

Radiance also ports over another feature found on Criterion's edition, 11 minutes' worth of excerpts from the documentary L’estate di Bruno Cortona: Castiglioncello nell’anno del sorpasso, created by Gloria De Antoni. Through the same set of passages, we get quick interviews with Marco Risi (the director’s son,) Paola Gassman (daughter of Vittorio,) actress Mila Stanic (who speaks solely of the train station scene), screenwriter Ettore Scola, Trintignant, actor Giancarlo Giannini, and director of photography Alfio Contini. This segment focuses on the beach sequences, even providing color home movie footage taken during filming. Contini talks about the photography (which he doesn’t think was anything exceptional) and even talks about how they filmed the ending. Again it's not terribly in-depth, but it at least offers an exciting look into the film's production.

Outside of the film's original trailer, the disc then closes with a brand new essay by Tim Lucas entitled On a Trintignant Kick, which, as one can probably assess, is an appreciation of actor Jean-Louis Trintignant. I was expecting a short piece reviewing the actor's strengths and more notable works, but it ended up being an exhaustive 58-minute essay on the actor (played over footage from Il sorpasso), going through most of his work up through The Conformist. Lucas goes through each of the covered roles and talks a little about what the actor brings to each one, even in some of his lesser works. It sadly doesn't touch on more recent films (like Amour or Red) but more than makes up for it with the amount of research and passion Lucas puts into it.

Criterion's edition of the film has a bit more material (though to be fair, one documentary on that release, Speaking with Gassman, is found on the disc for Il mattore), but the two new pieces produced by Radiance are stand-outs, with the Lucas essay being a real stand-out.


Sourced from a newer 4K restoration, Radiance's presentation delivers a subtle but notable improvement over previous releases.

Part of a multi-title set


Directed by: Dino Risi
Year: 1959 | 1960 | 1962
Time: 87 | 103 | 105 min.
Series: Radiance Films
Edition #: 19/20/21
Licensors: Movietime  |  Surf Film S.r.l.
Release Date: August 21 2023
MSRP: £44.99
3 Discs | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
2.35:1 ratio
1.70:1 ratio
Italian 2.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region B
 Neorealismo rosa - a visual essay by Italian cinema professor and author of Comedy Italian Style Remi Fournier Lanzoni on the softening of neo-realism which laid the groundwork for the emergence of commedia all’italiana   Alberto Sordi - a visual essay by critic Kat Ellinger about the great Italian actor   Trailer for Il vedovo   Interview with Andrea Bini, author of Male Anxiety and Psychopathology in Film: Comedy Italian Style   Speaking with Gassman - documentary on the working relationship between Vittorio Gassman and Dino Risi, by Risi’s son Marco (2005)   Love & Larceny - Michel Hazanavicius on Il Mattatore, an appreciation of the film and Vittorio Gassman by the director of The Artist   Trailer for Il mattatore   Appreciation of the film by Italian cinema expert Richard Dyer    Archival interview with Dino Risi by critic Jean A. Gili (1999, 13 mins)   Jean-Louis Trintignant on Il Sorpasso - an introduction by the actor for a French TV broadcast of the film (1983, 8 mins)   L’estate di Bruno Cortona - Castiglioncello nell’anno del Sorpasso (Gloria De Antoni, 2012) - an extract from the documentary made for the 50th anniversary of Il Sorpasso featuring the cast and crew   On a Trintignant Kick - An audio essay and tribute to Jean-Louis Trintignant by critic and author Tim Lucas, looking at his life and work in the 1960s (2023, 58 mins)   Trailer for Il sorpasso   Limited Edition 80-page perfect bound booklet featuring new writing by scholars and critics including Robert Gordon on the commedia all’italiana boom, Gino Moliterno on Il vedovo; Pasquale Iannone on Age and Scarpelli and the key screenwriters of the commedia all’italiana movement, Christina Newland on Italian machismo and Il sorpasso; a newly translated interview with Dino Risi by Lorenzo Codelli; and extracts of writing by Risi