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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Federico Fellini Collection


Starring: Anthony Quinn, Guilietta Masina and Richard Basehart
Optimum World
RRP: £34.99
Certificate: PG
Available 02 March 2009

Federico Fellini (1920 - 1993) was a film maker that influenced a generation, so it’s odd to think that he started out as a cartoonist until he was approached by Roberto Rossellini to collaborate on the writing of a film script. Soon Fellini started his own directorial career with his first solo project White Sheik (1952), and would continue to make films which were known for their visual extravagances and dream like imagery, something he drew from the circus. A multi-award winning director he was eventually honoured with an Oscar in 1993 “In recognition of his cinematic accomplishments that have thrilled and entertained worldwide audiences”.

This new box set of films contains White Sheik, La Strada, and the UK premiere of Nights of Cabiria. Of course it is relatively easy to eulogise about significant directors without recognising that tastes and the language of film are dynamic entities, so if you are not conversant with Fellini’s work its most probably best to rent one before committing to a box set. For those of you who are fans of the director, you’re in for a treat. 

White Sheik (1952 - 1 hr, 23 min, 19 sec) is Fellini’s first film as a director and, unlike some of his more seminal films, this one is a fairly straight, light comedy. The film's theme is one that Fellini would return to time and again - the idea that people are driven by forces not necessarily under their control. In the case of this pair of honeymooners: romantic love and lust.

Wanda and Ivan have come to Rome to meet the relatives. When Ivan takes a nap his wide-eyed and innocent wife takes herself off to see if she can meet the popular romances. Before she knows it she has met the White Sheik and been whisked away from her husband. Ivan, who is so straight laced to be a comical parody of a man, wakes to find his wife missing and has to both find her and fend off his relatives with increasingly ridiculous excuses for her absence. In the course of the day both are tempted and challenged over their idea of love.

The black and white film is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with a surprisingly clean print. Audio is in Italian with optional subtitles. The film stars Brunella Bovo as Wanda and Leopoldo Trieste as Ivan. The disc comes with some good extras, the most bizarre of which is Guiliett’s Secret Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (1 min, 51 sec), apparently she fed this to Fellini for most of their married life without telling him how she made it. There are text based filmographies for Fellini and Antonioni and a picture gallery. Fellini’s White Sheik and Other Stories (16 min, 11 sec) is presented by Charlotte Chandler and Peter Bondanella, and acts as a good introduction to the man and his films. Bondanella also presents Fellini’s Collection at Lilly Library (2 min, 47 sec) which holds an extensive collection of his manuscripts.

La Strada (1954 - 1 hr, 43 min, 13 sec) is one of the most important films of Fellini’s early career as it represents his transition from his neo-realistic roots to the more extravagant films of his later work. It won him many accolades including the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The film stars Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, as the wide eyed and innocent Gelsomina who is sold by her mother to the brutish Zampanò, a strong man (played by Anthony Quinn) who breaks chains for a living. Although Gelsomina seems trapped, the arrival of Il Matto (played by a young Richard Basehart), offers her hope of freedom. These hopes are dashed when Zampanò kills Il Matto, eventually he abandons Gelsomina. Only, later when he discover that she has died does the brute feel remorse and starts out to sea, a sea which holds no answers.

Once again the remastered black and white print is clean and presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Audio is 2.0 Italian with subtitles and a commentary on selected scenes by Christopher Wiegand. There is only a single extra on the disc, Giulietta Masina: La Forza di un Sorriso (52 min, 55 sec) which is a documentary about Fellini’s wife and long time collaborator. One again this is in Italian with subtitles. It’s not a coherent documentary, but rather a collection of interviews and songs strung together - interesting nonetheless.

Nights of Cabiria (1957 - 1 hr, 53 min, 02 sec), bagged Fellini another Oscar as well as a bag full of other awards. Once again he casts his wife, Giulietta Masina, as Cabiria - a tart with a heart who is forever looking for something better, only to be used and abused at the hand of men. Even so, the waif carries a certain inner strength which Masina’s portrayal captures perfectly, winning her the award for best actress at Cannes.

The black and white print is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a 2.0 Italian track with optional subtitles. The extras on the disc are the original theatrical trailer and an interview with Italian Cinema expert Phil Kemp (27 min, 34 sec).

Like I previously stated these represent some of Fellini’s earlier works so no La Dolce Vita, hopefully that will come in a later set. That said they still are worth watching, but if you’re unsure if you are going to like them, rent before you buy.


Charles Packer

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