Essential Fellini

The White Sheik


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Synopsis

One hundred years after his birth, Federico Fellini still stands apart as a giant of the cinema. The Italian maestro is defined by his dualities: the sacred and the profane, the masculine and the feminine, the provincial and the urbane. He began his career working in the slice-of-life poetry of neorealism, and though he soon spun off on his own freewheeling creative axis, he never lost that grounding, evoking his dreams, memories, and obsessions on increasingly grand scales in increasingly grand productions teeming with carnivalesque imagery and flights of phantasmagoric surrealism while maintaining an earthy, embodied connection to humanity. Bringing together fourteen of the director’s greatest spectacles, all beautifully restored, this centenary box set is a monument to an artist who conjured a cinematic universe all his own: a vision of the world as a three-ring circus in which his innermost infatuations, fears, and fantasies take center stage.

Picture 8/10

The second dual-layer disc in Criterion’s latest Blu-ray box set, Essential Fellini, presents his first solo outing as director, The White Sheik. The film has received an all-new 4K restoration and is presented here with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

Though a significant improvement over Criterion’s previous DVD edition for the film (which used an older standard-definition restoration that was, at the very least, progressive) it’s clear the materials were pretty rough to begin with. The restoration notes that open the film point out that the 4K restoration was sourced primarily from the negative, but later generation prints were used to repair damaged sections of said negative. That shows through clearly at times, with stains, tram lines, mold residue, and frame jumps popping up, combined with a slightly dupier look. Thankfully these issues are more the exception than the rule, usually only showing up around scene transitions or cuts. Much of the film, for long stretches, is clean and free of any sort of damage, so I can only assume that what remains was just beyond repair.

Despite whatever issues remain with the source materials this area still offers a large improvement over the DVD, which was laced with all sorts of damage. On top of that, the digital presentation, as one would hope, also improves considerably over the DVD. This image is far cleaner and more film-like here, delivering far more detail than the DVD could ever hope to do; it’s kind of insane how much sharper the picture is here in comparison to the blurrier DVD presentation. I also forgot how dark and flat the DVD image was. The Blu-ray has better contrast levels and more distinct gray tones. Whites also don’t bloom and blacks don’t crush out details.

Overall it’s one of the “weaker” presentations in the set because it appears the source materials were rough to begin with, but despite that this is still a stunner of an upgrade.

Audio 5/10

The restoration notes mention a soundtrack positive created from the original negative in 1993 was the source for lossless PCM soundtrack on this disc, and I would have to venture a guess that the same source was used for the DVD’s soundtrack as well since they don’t sound all that different. While the soundtrack here is a bit cleaner and free of any severe damage, the audio is still incredibly flat and edgy, music sounding especially distorted. It ends up only being a minor upgrade over the audio found on the problematic DVD.

Extras 6/10

This disc only sports a couple features, first carrying over the only on-disc supplement found on the previous DVD edition of The White Sheik, the 31-minute Remembrances featuring interviews with the film’s married couple Leopoldo Trieste and Brunella Bovo, along with Fellini friend Moraldo Rossi. The two actors recount how they first met Fellini (Trieste’s story details are particularly funny) and how the filmmaker would work with his actors. There is also conversation around the film’s story and how it was satirizing popular fiction (referred to as “simple literature” here) and comics of the time.

Criterion also includes audio interviews recorded by Gideon Bachmann, divided into two sections: a 30-minute portion featuring interviews with Fellini and a 59-minute portion featuring interviews with family and friends. This isn’t a new feature as Criterion had previously included it on their 2006 DVD reissue for Amarcord as well as the subsequent Blu-ray edition, and in the exact same format with the interviews playing over a series of photos. The interview excerpts featuring Fellini has the director talking about his filmmaking style, life, influences, and the like, but it’s the portion with his family that proves especially enlightening since they don’t feel the need to spice things up as Fellini seems to naturally do. I had only sampled the family/friends interviews when I previously covered it for the Blu-ray edition of Amarcord, feeling it was something that only hardcore Fellini aficionados would care about (a label I don’t apply to myself) but I had a real change of heart going through it in its entirety this time around. It’s actually a very delightful collection of material, featuring the filmmaker’s mother and sister, Ida Barbiani and Maddalena Fellini, along with friends Luigi “Titta” Benzi and Mario Montanari, and a woman I assume to be his first “girlfriend,” Bianca Mercatalli (at the beginning of the interview she insists, at the behest of her husband, not to have her full name used in the interview, though the provided subtitle gives it away here). Her contribution is interesting as she might have the most wide-ranging view of the man, suggesting she knew they weren't really good for each other (or at least he wasn't what she needed in a relationship). But everyone talks about his creative spirit, whether it be with puppets, through his writing, or his drawing, and recount stories around all of this. It’s also kind of funny to hear most everyone repeat the same things about him, like how a few participants recalling his love for adventure films. They all give a good portrait of a man and offer insights into what developed him as a filmmaker, Mercatalli probably stating it best with “[he] gathers impressions and makes a film.” I’m not sure why I was originally averse to this feature when I came across it on the Amarcord disc, but it’s actually a wonderful collection of material.

And that wraps up the disc. Not packed by any means, and the one “new” feature has actually been recycled from another title, but it’s all quite good.

Closing

A couple of source issues remain but the new presentation is a significant upgrade over the previous DVD’s dated one, and the features (the couple that are on here) are all quite good.

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Year: 1950-1987
Time: 1683 total min.
 
Series: The Criterion Collection
Licensors: Intramovies  |  Paramount Home Entertainment  |  Cristaldi Films  |  Gaumont  |  Cineteca di Bologna  |  Studio Canal  |  BetaFilm  |  Corinth Films  |  Istituto Luce  |  MGM Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 24 2020
MSRP: $249.95
 
Blu-ray
15 Discs | BD-50
1.33:1 ratio
1.37:1 ratio
1.85:1 ratio
2.35:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Italian 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 
 Fellini: I'm a Born Liar, a feature-length documentary from 2002 by Damian Pettigrew that provides an unorthodox introduction to Federico Fellini's life and work and features extensive interviews with the director himself   First episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Interviews from 2002 with actors Brunella Bovo and Leopoldo Trieste, and Fellini friend and collaborator Moraldo Rossi   Archival audio interviews of Federico Fellini and his friends and family, conducted by critic Gideon Bachmann   Vitellonismo, a 2004 documentary featuring interviews with actors Leopoldo Trieste and Franco Interlenghi, assistant director Moraldo Rossi, Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich, Fellini friend Vincenzo Mollica, and former director of the Fellini Foundation Vittorio Boarini   Second episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Presentation of I vitelloni ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   Trailer for I vitelloni   Introduction for La strada from 2003 by filmmaker Martin Scorsese   Audio commentary from 2003 for La strada by Peter Bondanella, author of The Cinema of Federico Fellini   Federico Fellini’s Autobiography, a documentary originally broadcast on Italian television in 2000   Trailer for La strada   New audio commentary for Il bidone by Fellini scholar Frank Burke   Interview from 2013 with filmmaker Dominique Delouche   Giulietta Masina: The Power of a Smile, an hour-long documentary from 2004   Third episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Interview from 1999 with filmmaker Dominique Delouche   Audio interview from 1998 with producer Dino De Laurentiis   Trailers for Nights of Cabiria   Interview from 2014 with filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, an assistant director on La dolce vita   Interview from 2014 with scholar David Forgacs about the period in Italian history when La dolce vita was made   Interview from 2014 with Italian journalist Antonello Sarno   Interview from 1965 with Federico Fellini   Presentation of La dolce vita ephemera from the "Fellinana" archive of collector Don Young   Video essay for La dolce vita from 2014 by filmmaker Kogonada   Fourth episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Documentary from 2009 by Antoine de Gaudemaron on the making of La dolce vita, featuring archival footage and interviews with actor Anouk Aimée and assistant director Dominique Delouche, among others   Introduction to from 2001 by filmmaker Terry Gilliam   Audio commentary from 2001 for , featuring film critic and Fellini friend Gideon Bachmann, and NYU film professor Antonio Monda   The Last Sequence, a 2003 documentary on Fellini's lost alternate ending for    Nino Rota: Between Cinema and Concert, a 1993 documentary about Fellini's longtime composer   Interviews from 2001 with actor Sandra Milo, filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro   Rare photographs for from Bachmann's collection   Gallery of behind-the-scenes and production photos from    U.S. theatrical trailer for    4K restoration for Toby Dammit, Fellini's contribution to the omnibus film, Spirits of the Dead, based on tales by Edgar Allan Poe   Fellini: A Director's Notebook, a film by Fellini from 1969, newly restored in 4K   Reporter's Diary: "Zoom on Fellini," a behind-the-scenes documentary   Familiar Spirits, a 1969 interview with Federico Fellini by actor Ian Dallas   Trailer for Juliet of the Spirits   Audio commentary from 2014 for Fellini Satyricon featuring an adaptation of Eileen Lanouette Hughes’s 1971 memoir On the Set of “Fellini Satyricon”: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary   Ciao, Federico!, Gideon Bachmann’s documentary shot on the set of Fellini Satyricon   Archival interviews with Federico Fellini   Interview from 2011 with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno   Documentary from 2014 about Fellini’s adaptation of Petronius’s work, featuring interviews with classicists Luca Canali, a consultant on the film, and Joanna Paul   Interview from 2014 with photographer Mary Ellen Mark about her experiences on the set of Fellini Satyricon and her iconic photographs of Fellini and his film   Presentation of Fellini Satyricon ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   Trailer for Fellini Satyricon   Audio commentary for Roma featuring Frank Burke, author of Fellini’s Films   Deleted scenes from Roma   Interview from 2016 with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino   Interview from 2016 with poet and Fellini friend Valerio Magrelli   Presentation of Roma ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   Trailer for Roma   Audio commentary from 2006 for Amarcord by film scholars Peter Brunette and Frank Burke   The Secret Diary of "Amarcord," a 1974 behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the film   Deleted scene from Amarcord   Fellini's Homecoming, a documentary from 2006 on the relationship between the director and his hometown   Interview from 2006 with actor Magali Noël   Fellini's drawings of characters from the film   Presentation of Amarcord ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   U.S. theatrical trailer for Amarcord   Fellini racconta: Diary of a Film, a behind-the-scenes documentary from 1983   Fellini's TV, a 2003 Italian television documentary on Fellini's work in television advertising during the 1980s   Fellini racconta: Passeggiate nella memoria, an Italian television documentary produced in 2000 and featuring several interviews with a late-in-life Fellini looking back on his career   At Home with Federico Fellini, a 1987 interview with Federico Fellini on the importance of Franz Kafka's unfinished novel Amerika to Intervista   Audio interview from the early sixties with actor Marcello Mastroianni by film critic Gideon Bachmann   Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember, 193-minute documentary featuring the actor talking about his life as an actor   Deluxe packaging, including two lavishly illustrated books with hundreds of pages of content: notes on the films by scholar David Forgacs, essays by filmmakers Michael Almereyda, Kogonada, and Carol Morley; film critics Bilge Ebiri and Stephanie Zacharek; and novelist Colm Tóibín, and dozens of images spotlighting Don Young’s renowned collection of Fellini memorabilia