Essential Fellini

Il bidone

Part of a multi-title set

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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

Disc five in Criterion’s latest box set, Essential Fellini, presents Il bidone on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is sourced from a new 4K restoration of the full 113-minute version of the film that was shown at the original premiere. The 35mm original negative was the primary basis for the restoration, with a 35mm fine-grain master positive filling in where need be, usually for the sequences cut after the original premiere.

Though it hasn’t received much love on home video in the past (the only notable English-friendly editions I’m aware of are a North American Image Entertainment DVD and a UK Masters of Cinema dual-format edition, neither of which I’ve seen), but that is all remedied here with this new presentation that ends up being an incredible knock-out in the end. The level of detail is just staggering at times, where you can make out just about every individual blade of grass in a field during the film’s early scenes and every individual pebble during the film’s closing shots. Long shots look so sharp and crisp, the patterns and textures on walls and clothing just popping off the screen. Film grain is rendered solidly enough (occasionally there’s some minor noise) and the final image looks very much like a projected film. The grays look absolutely incredible as well, rendering and blending smoothly, further lending to that photographic look, and black levels are deep and inky without crushing out detail. Whites can be bright, but they never bloom.

The restoration work comes off exceptional as well, with only a few minor marks remaining,  all of which are barely noticeable. There are a couple of occasions where the general quality can drop a little bit, details not looking as clear with contrast boosting a bit, and this is probably a side effect of the alternate source—the fine-grain master positive—coming into play. The digital presentation is pretty solid most of the time but there are moments where some very fine patterns or details, like cross-hatching on a jacket, have a slight shimmer. Outside of that the digital presentation is otherwise solid, and the presentation is a pleasant surprise.

Audio 6/10

Criterion delivers the film’s monaural soundtrack with a single-channel, lossless PCM presentation. There’s a bit of an edge to the music and dialogue at times but the soundtrack is clean outside of that. There can be some background noise (as expected) but it rarely sticks out and there are no serious issues. Fidelity isn’t too shabby in the end as well.

Extras 7/10

Il bidone was dismissed upon its initial release, Fellini even cutting around 23-minutes or so out of the film after its premiere in the hopes that it would help its box office.

[Narrator Voice]: It didn’t.

Amazingly, even now, it’s not hard to see why it didn’t go over well with just about everyone in the audience: the central characters are incredibly unpleasant, conning those least able to afford it, and then the film’s presentation of the more-in-destitute is not all that flattering itself, leading to the film being incredibly cruel. Over the years since, the film has (deservedly) received a bit of a reevaluation and the newly recorded audio commentary by scholar Frank Burke gets into all of this to a fair degree, explaining exactly what upset audiences and critics based on writings of the time (a couple, including André Bazin, had more positive things to say) and offering his own defenses and thoughts. He also talks about the background of the film, Fellini inspired by con artists he had met. Interestingly the director was eventually turned off by the project once he saw how awful these people were (a sign how people would react to the film), but seeing actor Broderick Crawford on a poster made him think how perfect he would be in the role of Augusto, and that pushed him to make the film anyways. Burke also takes time to look at Fellini’s compositions, the editing of a number of sequences (including a breakdown of the finale) and go into how some of his flourishes make it into the film that can otherwise be considered neorealist. Burke manages to pack in a lot and he talks throughout most of the track (he goes silent for about a minute late in the film), rarely just reiterating what we can see on screen, unless he’s talking about how a sequence has been assembled. Unfortunately, his delivery is a bit dry, as though he’s reading from a script, but I enjoyed the content and it was a nice surprise to get some new material made exclusively for this release.

Sadly, the disc only has one other feature: a discussion between assistant director Dominque Delouche and professor Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, recorded for the 2013 Masters of Cinema edition and running around 39-minutes. Though the focus is primarily on Il bidone the two do discuss a number of topics around Fellini, from how he guarded his projects to the frustration of many (he brings up Donald Sutherland in particular) to his desire to break completely from neorealism, which he took in steps with each film before La dolce vita, where he broke completely free. Around the topic of Il bidone itself, Delouche talks about the inspiration for the film, specifically the character of Augusto, and the production problems Fellini ran into, including the mad rush to edit the film in time for film festivals after the film went over-schedule. He also talks about how Fellini worked, which conflicted with everything he had learned in relation to filmmaking before.

The lengthy and insightful interview pairs nicely with the commentary, and the two do manage to cover the film to a fairly satisfying degree, though something more specific around the shorter version of the film would have been a welcome addition.

Closing

Another stunner of a presentation in the set, with a couple of engaging features (including a new commentary) that work to reassess the film as an underappreciated gem in Fellini’s filmography.

Part of a multi-title set

BUY AT: Amazon.com Amazon.ca

 
 
Year: 1950-1987
Time: 1691 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