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Variety Lights (The Criterion Collection)

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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(Aug 22, 2000)
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The Criterion Collection

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A beautiful ingenue joins a tawdry music hall troupe and quickly becomes its feature attraction in Fellini's stunning debut film (directed in collaboration with neorealist filmmaker Alberto Lattuada). Featuring Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife and frequent leading lady, Variety Lights introduces the director's affection for the carnivalesque characters that frequent the cinematic landscape of such classics as Nights of Cabiria, La Strada, and La Dolce Vita. Criterion is proud to present Variety Lights in a beautiful digital transfer.


Federico Fellini codirected this film from his own story about a romance between an ambitious young dancer and the aging manager of a variety theater in Rome. It's a sharply realized first effort, showing that Fellini could work his magic even in 1950. The dancer--played with luscious, complicated innocence by Carla del Poggio--talks her way into Signor Checco's troupe by showing him her legs. The others, including his girlfriend (Giulietta Masina), protest, but Checco takes her into the poverty-stricken group anyway. Soon enough, he is justified: Their sparsely attended shows are suddenly packed with men stomping their feet and whistling for "the Redhead." Checco not-so-secretly wants her himself, and she lets him think he might get her (even while looking for someone else with money.) The film's many lively performances include Giulietta Masina, whose eyes register pluck, resignation, and weariness in a moment as she watches her guy fall in love. Poggio is good, too: When she gets what she wants, her face slides into a quiver of doubt about its value. Self-delusion, arguably the main arrow in Fellini's quiver of themes, gets a subtly layered treatment here, and Fellini, so extravagant later in his career, shows an early talent for, of all things, restraint. --Lyall Bush

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Peppino De Filippo, Carla Del Poggio, Giulietta Masina, John Kitzmiller, Dante Maggio
  • Directors: Federico Fellini, Alberto Lattuada
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: August 22, 2000
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780023331
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,144 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Variety Lights (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
First thing first, the DVD cover is misleading. Guillietta Masina does not star in Variety Lights. She is a co-star with a fair amount of screen time. It's worth picking up simply for her performance because when she is on screen she shines. Masina plays Melina a woman who is wronged by her man (a reoccurring theme she will revisit in La Strada, Nights of Cabiria and Juliet of the Spirits). Checco, Melina's man, is a delusional womanizing manager of a vaudeville troupe who takes under his wing Liliana, a girl with stars in her eyes who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. Liliana's "skirt less" number is a highlight for me. What a great song! Checco, much to Melina's chagrin, unsuccessfully tries his hardest to impress Liliana with his so called "connections" and can barely contain his jealously over Liliana's many suitors. Liliana slowly transforms from "innocent" girl to a calculating manipulative shrew who uses Checco to further her ambitious career goals and thinks nothing of squashing his dreams. The changes in Checco and Liliana are so subtle that by the time the inevitable climax is reached I was hard pressed to tell which character I disliked the most. Ultimately, it's the tragically loyal Melina with whom I sympathized. This film is a true testament to Fellini's genius as a filmmaker. Out of all of Fellini's tragic neo-realist films this is my favorite. I passionately loved and hated many of the characters and at times found myself yelling at the television. A must for any Fellini fan.
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Format: VHS Tape
Though this was a joint directorial effort, Fellini's style shines through in many ways. A rambling, at times almost incoherent film, it nevertheless remains watchable for the liveliness of its characters and the story of the girl who literally "steals the show." It is also most noteworthy for the performance of the brilliant Giuliette Masina, whose character here is much different from the others she would play in Fellini classics, but her unique talent still shines through. It is worth the film price just to see her in action.
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Format: DVD
Co-directed by Alberto Lattuada and Federico Fellini, VARIETY LIGHTS is without a doubt already in the library of those of you who long for quality titles available in the DVD standard. If you can find now almost the entire filmography of Jean-Claude Van Damme or Jackie Chan in DVD, only one Luis Bunuel movie for instance can be found amidst the thousands of titles you can buy.
With VARIETY LIGHTS, you are going to join, before LA STRADA, the peculiar world of the artists with no name, the world of the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire look-alikes performing in the 1950 Italy. The camera of Federico Fellini is always tender with these artists and doesn't judge them. Even the ambitious girl who will cheat on the man who has discovered her is depicted as a naive girl blinded by the lights of show-business.
The copy presented by Criterion is far from being perfect but nonetheless is above-average. No bonus features except for a scene access, an interesting booklet, color bars and english subtitles.
A DVD for Giulietta Masina.
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Format: DVD
A young woman pursuing her dream of being on the stage, aligns herself with a traveling variety show band of performers in "Variety Lights," directed by Federico Fellini (and assisted by Alberto Lattuada). Veteran comic actor Checco Dal Monte (Peppino De Filippo) and his troupe of performers are struggling to get by, living from hand to mouth and show to show, but it doesn't deter Liliana Antonelli (Carla Del Poggio), blinded perhaps by the stars in her eyes, from approaching Checco about joining his show. He turns her down-- they simply have no openings, and certainly no money-- but circumstances soon prevail on her behalf, and much to the chagrin of many of the other performers, she joins the troupe. The effect she will have on the show, and how it will influence her own life, remains to be seen at this point; but with Fellini at the helm, you know it's going to be an interesting ride. And it is.
Fellini, a true visionary, is known for filling the screen with vivid images born of his own imagination, especially in his later films. But beyond the sometimes bizarre appearances, there is always an engaging story to be found at the heart of his films, and this one (his first) is no exception. And, though devoid of the surrealism he would use later on, in Checco's company there is something of the carnival motif present that Fellini would return to time and again during the course of his career, and of course, there's the story, presented with that unique Fellini touch and laced with his insight into the human condition, which at it's core is the real strength of the film.
No matter what the subject matter, Fellini always had his finger on the emotional pulse of the material and had the innate ability to transfer what he felt to the screen.
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Format: DVD
This is certainly not at the same level as Fellini's other films, but it's his first and a credible start at that. The typical Fellini motifs and characters are in this film, but presented in a more traditional and literal way than later films. The film is a bit disjointed at times and at one point when the action moves from the countryside to the city I almost felt a reel was missing. Since the story jumps it might have been better to have had a title that said "A Few Months Later" or something like that. But no matter. I got past my confusion and caught up with what was happening fairly quickly.

The story is about a leader and director of a third-rate itinerant traveling vaudeville group. The guy falls for a younger wannabe with stars in her eyes and leaves his companion for her. Going to the big city to find the girl fame leads to humor and heartbreak. Everything is presented in a realistic gritty style that portends the films like "La Strada" that came after this one.

I particularly like the stage scenes of the performances of the troupe. They were comical, but very believable. The scenes of the audiences brought to my mind the theater scenes of "Roma" and "Amarcord".

It's an interesting film from the historical perspective and a curiosity of its time. Not a great film, but a good one for fans of Fellini and the neo-realism style. The acting is very nicely done and all other aspects are entertaining. Short, sweet, and fun to see.
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