Fellini Satyricon [Blu-ray]
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Federico Fellini’s career achieved new levels of eccentricity and brilliance with this remarkable, controversial, extremely loose adaptation of Petronius’s classical Roman satire, written during the reign of Nero. An episodic barrage of sexual licentiousness, godless violence, and eye-catching grotesquerie, Fellini Satyricon follows the exploits of two pansexual young men—the handsome scholar Encolpius and his vulgar, insatiably lusty friend Ascyltus—as they move through a landscape of free-form pagan excess. Creating apparent chaos with exquisite control, Fellini constructs a weird old world that feels like science fiction.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Audio commentary featuring an adaptation of Eileen Lanouette Hughes’s memoir On the Set of “Fellini Satyricon”: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary
• Ciao, Federico!, Gideon Bachmann’s hour-long documentary shot on the set of Fellini Satyricon
• Archival interviews with director Federico Fellini
• New interview with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno
• New documentary about Fellini’s adaptation of Petronius’s work, featuring interviews with classicists Luca Canali, a consultant on the film, and Joanna Paul
• New interview with photographer Mary Ellen Mark about her experiences on the set and her iconic photographs of Fellini and his film
• Felliniana, a presentation of Fellini Satyricon ephemera from the collection of Don Young
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Wood
Top customer reviews
What I am not thankful for, however, is the treatment of subtitles and language options (or a lack thereof). It’s highly disappointing that Criterion didn’t bother to include the English-language dubbed soundtrack that is available on the earlier DVD release from MGM Home Entertainment. I’m sure that many foreign-language film aficionados, for whom an English dubbed version is anathema, find the original language version superior, and I must say that I have encountered far too many horrible English language dubs out there. But there are several circumstances that argue strongly for one in this case. First, keep in mind that ALL versions of Satyricon—and the overwhelming majority of Italian films in general—are dubbed in post-production, even for the Italian-language version. That’s how Italian film studios have made movies for most of the past century; soundtracks were not recorded during the actual filming. (Producer Walter Wanger wrote insightfully about the trials faced during filming of the 20th Century Fox epic Cleopatra at Cinecitta studios in Rome; countless shots were ruined because of noise generated by the crew members, who were not accustomed to remaining silent during filming.) So in this, Satyricon is no worse than any other Fellini film. But what is disconcerting in this case, is that the three leads are all English-speaking actors: Martin Potter (Encolpio) and Max Born (Gitone) are English by birth, while Hiram Keller (Ascilto) is American. And it is totally evident, even glaringly obvious, that they are speaking their lines in English. So you have the discomforting experience of seeing them mouth the words that you are reading in the English subtitles while hearing other actors altogether voicing Italian dialogue that may or may not be close to what they are actually saying.
I read once that Fellini’s original intention was to have the movie dubbed into Latin or some other dead language, so that everyone, regardless of nationality, would be forced to read the subtitles, as he wanted to emphasize a disconnect between the viewer and the ancient mythological world he was trying to create. Obviously he did not adhere to his original intention, however, as the film was shown in theaters and released on Blu-ray by Criterion with a dubbed Italian soundtrack.
Making it worse is the fact that the subtitles are large and superimposed upon the film image—and those images are of paramount importance in a psychedelic dreamscape such as Fellini as concocted here. That may be how the subtitles appear in theaters, but at home the picture, even on a widescreen TV, is letterboxed, and those same subtitles could have been relegated to the black portion at the bottom of the screen, without disrupting the visual impact of those superb pictures. I’m surprised no one thought of doing that here.
Otherwise, the quality of the release is uniformly excellent. Apparently Criterion giveth, and Criterion taketh away.
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