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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 Dolby TrueHD Monaural
English Dolby Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 176 min.
Price: $17.99
Release Date: 2/8/2022

• Introduction by Director Martin Scorsese


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La Dolce Vita [Blu-Ray] (1960)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 9, 2022)

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 D

La Dolce Vita appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, the film came with a strong presentation.

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. Outside of those Cha-Cha Club scenes, the Blu-ray presented the film in a satisfying manner.

The movie’s Dolby TrueHD 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.

How did the 2022 Blu-ray compare to the prior BD from Criterion? As both came from the same restoration, they seemed virtually identical.

The 2022 disc offered Dolby TrueHD monaural vs. the PCM mono of the Criterion release, but that didn’t alter the impact of the audio. Visuals felt virtually unchanged, as the 2022 release used the same transfer.

Only one extra appears here: an Introduction by Director Martin Scorsese. It runs two minutes, 30 seconds, as Scorsese offers his thoughts/memories of Vita. Scorsese gives us some insights but he chats for too little time to give us much of value.

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 almost no bonus materials.

While the 2022 Blu-ray reproduces the film itself just as well as its Criterion predecessor, it loses all the older release’s supplements. However, given that the Criterion disc went out of print and commands a moderate premium, the 2022 BD’s $18 MSRP makes it the way to go unless you feel you must see all the Criterion’s extras.

To rate this film, visit the Criterion review of LA DOLCE VITA

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