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Federico Fellini
Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée
Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli
Seven days (and nights) in the life of a Marcello, a Roman journalist torn between making something serious of his life or drifting along on a pleasant if empty stream of casual affairs and profitable but meaningless newspaper and magazine work.
Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Italian LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 176 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 10/21/2014

• “The Eye and the Beholder” Visual Essay
• 1965 Interview with Director Federico Fellini
• Interview with Assistant Director Lina Wertmüller
• Interview with Film Scholar David Forgacs
• Interview with Film Journalist Antonello Sarno
• 1963 Audio Interview with Actor Marcello Mastroianni
• “Felliniana” Still Compilation
• Booklet


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La Dolce Vita: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1960)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 19, 2021)

Others can debate where 1960’s La Dolce Vita lands on a ranking of Federico Fellini’s films. More than 60 years after its release, though, it remains one of his best-regarded movies.

Tabloid journalist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni) lives and works in Rome. As his job, he attempts to expose celebrities at their worst moments.

Despite the lurid nature of his career, Rubini musters enough charisma to charm many of his subjects – especially the beautiful women he stalks. As Rubini bounces from one affair to another, he begins to question his lifestyle choices.

Based on that synopsis, I might expect Vita to last around 100 minutes. The movie’s basic plot sounds suited to a breezy running time.

Instead, Vita goes for a whopping 176 minutes, a length more suited to a historical epic than a tale of a womanizing swinger. Can Fellini fill this extreme running time with enough quality content to keep the viewer involved?

Not really, as Vita comes with a surfeit of scenes that feel superfluous and less than engaging. However, because that seems to be Fellini’s point, I can’t actively criticize the movie for its ennui.

Vita essentially gives a story about ennui. It features a jaded lead character who gradually seeks some purpose in life but doesn’t really find any.

This makes the movie’s extended running time relevant, but it also means Vita becomes a difficult movie to love – or even like, honestly. The film progresses at such a slow pace and it feels so purposeless that it turns into something of an endurance test.

An attractive endurance test, at least, as Fellini and director of photography Otello Martelli use the widescreen frame well. Vita boasts excellent composition, so it always simply looks great.

The movie also kicks to life sporadically, as it makes a variety of social criticisms. Vita’s depiction of celebrity culture and tabloid journalism seem more relevant than ever, and the film exposes the shallowness of the whole enterprise.

In a dark turn, Fellini seems to want to convey that all life is basically meaningless, though. Despite all Marcello’s efforts, he can’t find much real purpose.

If nothing else, you’d think Anita Ekberg would give him some reason to live! I’ve never been all that partial to Swedish blondes, but the ridiculously sexy Ekberg makes me rethink that sentiment, as she sets the screen on fire during her fairly brief section of the movie.

Though of course, her character comes across as little more than another cog in the celeb culture machine. Ekberg’s movie star Sylvia plays her part as the sexy, blowsy bombshell and gets allowed no greater depth than that, as the show biz machine won’t let her escape from that little box.

Arguably the most effective part of Vita comes when some little kids claim they can see the Madonna. It seems clear the children can’t detect anything and they’re playing a prank, but the film depicts the mania based on these “visions” in a brutal and frank manner that reveals the insanity of the media culture at times.

Again, Fellini makes some good points in Vita, and these likely felt fresher 61 years ago than they do in 2021. I grasp the purpose of what he wanted to do in this movie.

I just can’t get onboard with Vita as a film I can actually enjoy. As much as I understand the point of the flick’s extreme running time and its lack of overt substance, these factors make Vita more a project I can respect than like.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

La Dolce Vita appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. At the film’s start, a text disclaimer warned us that the source suffered from lots of damage, some of it “irreparable”.

That set me up to expect an ugly presentation. However, the opposite proved correct, as Vita offered a strong image.

Sharpness usually seemed positive throughout the movie. A few wider shots displayed a smidgen of softness, but not in a way that created real distractions. Instead, the film usually looked detailed and concise.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. No issues with digital noise reduction occurred, as the movie presented a natural layer of grain.

In terms of source flaws, some streaks appeared on the right part of the screen during the Cha-Cha Club sequence, but overall the film came free from issues.

Black levels looked deep and rich throughout Vita, as the movie presented a rich silver image that displayed fine contrast. Shadow detail also appeared clear and appropriately opaque with no signs of excessive thickness. Across the board, the Blu-ray presented the film in a satisfying manner.

The movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack wasn’t quite as pleasing, but it seemed to be decent for its era. Like other Italian films of the era, all dialogue was looped, and this created occasional lip-synch issues.

The lines could also seem artificial and not especially natural. Those issues became inevitable, though, and overall clarity of the dialogue was acceptable.

Effects came across as acceptably clean and realistic. Also recorded after the original shoot, they remained a fairly subdued aspect of the mix, and they could be somewhat flat, but as a whole, they sounded fine for the era.

Music was even less involving, as the film’s score didn’t play a huge role. In any case, the music sounded a bit strident and thin, but it seemed to be reasonably clear. This ended up as a passable soundtrack for a movie from 1960.

A mix of extras appear here, and we launch with The Eye & The Beholder, a nine-minute, 32-second visual essay from filmmaker ::kogonada. The program looks at some aspects of the film’s techniques and gives us interpretation.

We find some useful points here. However, the presentation seems a bit annoying in terms of pretensions, so it loses some points for its style.

From 1965, we get an NBC news Interview with Director Federico Fellini. In this 30-minute, seven-second chat, journalist Irving R. Levine talks with Fellini about aspects of the filmmaker’s career.

Given its roots as a US network TV interview, I didn’t expect much, but this turns into a fairly effective overview. While it lacks tremendous insights, it becomes a nice glimpse at Fellini circa the mid-60s.

A 2014 Interview with Assistant Director Lina Wertmüller goes for seven minutes, 25 seconds and provides Wertmüller’s thoughts about working with Fellini and aspects of the Vita production. Wertmüller offers an engaging chat.

Another 2014 reel, an Interview with Film Scholar David Forgacs lasts 14 minutes, 29 seconds and discusses the movie’s themes and interpretation along with some aspects of the production. We find another informative piece here.

An Interview with Film Journalist Antonello Sarno also comes from 2014. During this 15-minute, 51-second piece, Sarno examines the movie’s Rome, themes/subtext, and aspects of the production. Sarno brings us a worthwhile reel.

We go back to 1963 for an audio-only Interview with Actor Marcello Mastroianni. It spans 47 minutes, 19 seconds and goes over aspects of his career, his work with Fellini, and Vita. Expect a high-quality discussion here.

A still collection called Felliniana occupies 49 frames and gives us a mix of promotional materials. It becomes a nice compilation.

Finally, we get a booklet. It includes photos, credits and an essay from film historian Gary Giddins. It finishes the package well.

As a piece of art, La Dolce Vita succeeds, as its appealing photography and appropriate sense of world-weariness combine to make its points. However, as a piece of entertainment. the film becomes tough to take, as its long running time can make it a chore. The Blu-ray brings very good picture along with adequate audio and a mix of bonus materials. This turns into a strong release for a well-constructed but often off-putting movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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