Amarcord, Blu-ray (1973/2011)

by | Feb 20, 2011 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Amarcord, Blu-ray (1973/2011)

Director: Fedrico Fellini
Starring: Magali Noël
Studio: Cristald/Janus/The Criterion Collection 4 [2/8/11]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color

Audio: Italian PCM mono; Optional English-dubbed track
Subtitles: English
Extras: Audio commentary by film scholars Peter Brunette & Frank Burke; “Fellini’s Homecoming” 45-min. documentary on the filmmaker, his hometown and his past; Video interview with Magali Noël (Gradisca); Fellini’s own drawings of the film’s characters; “Felliniana” ephemera devoted to Amarcord; Audio interview with Fellini and friends by film critic Gideon Bachmann; Demo of film restoration; Deleted scene; American theatrical trailer; Illustrated booklet with essay by film scholar Sam Rohdie and Fellini’s own essay “My Rimini”
Length: 123 minutes
Rating: *****

As you can see by its numbering, this was in the very first group of classic films given the Criterion Collection restoration touch when it was released on laserdisc some years ago, and they have kept the numbering. Winner of an Academy Award, this is probably – along with Juliet of the Spirits – my favorite Fellini film. It is ostensibly a nostalgic reminiscence of Fellini’s youth in the provincial town on the east coast of Italy, Rimini. But funneled thru the filmmaker’s usual carnivalesque fantasy world.  All the little touching, shocking or hilarious things that went on are exaggerated, fantisized, parodied, in various clever ways. Be they social structure, family drama, male fantasies, adolescent concerns, or even the political impact of fascism beginning to take hold of many Italians in the 1930s.

The “My Rimini” essay by Fellini was written while he was in hospital late in his life, and makes interesting reading before viewing the film.  Even in it things are exaggerated a bit, but nothing like some of the scenes in Amarcord.  I think this was the best score Fellini’s composer Nino Rota ever created for a Fellini film.  And it is beautifully integrated into the film, such as the village band playing one of the tunes, or the blind accordionist playing a very sad tune at two points in the film. Fellini’s drawings of some of the characters he envisioned for the film are worth seeing, and the cartoon-like artwork adorning the Blu-ray box seem like cleaned-up versions of Fellini’s original ideas.

The glaring head of Mussolini, made out of flowers, is prominent in one of the drawings, and one of the memorable scenes is the classmate of Fellini’s who is participating in a fascist ritual honoring some visiting general.  He imagines himself as a fascist soldier being married to a schoolgirl on whom he has a crush, while the head of Mussolini speaks to him and congratulates him.  Another famous scene is the townspeople rushing in small boats out of their harbor to see the Rex – a huge Italian ocean liner  – which has just returned from America. Part of the whole fantasy, the Rex was made out of cardboard and the scene was shot in the Cinecitta movie studio. Fellini’s fascination with parodies of the Catholic church and also circus elements comes to the fore in the scene where the mentally-unstable uncle is stuck in a tree, and finally rescued by a dwarf nun climbing up a ladder.

The bonus features, as nearly always with Criterion, are fascinating and extend one’s appreciation and understanding of the film and its creator. The interviews include even Fellini’s close friend, depicted in the film, who still lived in Rimini at the time the interview was shot.  The Italian actors may exaggerate some of the dialog, especially during the most active family arguments, but I cannot imagine anyone viewing the film with the dubbed English dialog instead.

— John Sunier

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