La Dolce Vita (1960)

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Released 12-Mar-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Bagdad Cafe, Cinema Paradiso, Cyrano de Bergerac
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 166:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Federico Fellini
Studio
Distributor
Riama Film
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Marcello Mastroianni
Anita Ekberg
Anouk Aimée
Yvonne Furneaux
Magali Noël
Alain Cuny
Annibale Ninchi
Walter Santesso
Valeria Ciangottini
Riccardo Garrone
Ida Galli
Audrey McDonald
Polidor
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $32.95 Music Nino Rota
Armando Trovajoli


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) is a journalist with a newspaper, who seems to specialise in reporting on the social world. He hangs around cafes with his photographer Paparazzo and indulges in the sweet life of the film's title, engaging in a casual affair with promiscuous society girl Maddalena (Anouk Aimée) while he seemingly unwittingly tortures his highly strung girlfriend Emma (Yvonne Furneaux). Marcello feels that his life is empty and leading nowhere. He sees in the writer Steiner (Alain Cuny) what he will become, a family man with two adorable children. But Steiner is not really happy. Marcello's relationship with his father is also strained and unsatisfying.

    This is a somewhat episodic film, almost as if it was derived from several short stories featuring the Marcello character. The first of these is the most famous, as Marcello covers the arrival in Rome of a foreign film star (Anita Ekberg) and her drunken actor husband (Lex Barker). This sequence features the legendary sequence in the Trevi Fountain, as Marcello tries unsuccessfully to seduce the actress. Ekberg looks stunning and one can only wonder at the marvels of adhesive tape. You would think though that they could have spelled her name correctly on the front cover.

    But the meat of the film is in the relationship that Marcello has with the bourgeois society of Rome, as Fellini takes pot-shots at them and their lifestyles. They all come across as empty and shallow, and one wonders what Marcello sees in them. There are some remarkable scenes in this film, from the opening shot of a statue of Jesus being carried by helicopter past half-finished apartment blocks and sunbathers by their swimming pools, to the crowds at the scene of the sighting of the Madonna, tormented by rain and the media, to the sequence where Steiner's wife arrives home on a bus to an unexpected greeting. Unlike Fellini's later kaleidoscopic, carnival-of-life films, La Dolce Vita is a serious and moving drama about Italian society.

    Mastroianni is excellent in the leading role as the disillusioned reporter, as is Aimée as Maddalena. Furneaux is a little too histrionic as Marcello's girlfriend, but French actor Cuny stands out as the troubled Steiner. There is also an appearance by the German model and actress Nico, playing a character called Nico. Years later she would achieve a cult following from her singing work with the Andy Warhol-promoted band The Velvet Underground. And of course, the character Paparazzo has lent his name to the dictionary, other similarly ruthless photographers now referred to as paparazzi.

    This is a long but very rewarding and entertaining film, in some respects the last of Fellini's realistic films and in others the first of his fantasies. A classic of the Italian film and indeed of world cinema, it does not provide any easy answers or solutions to the questions it raises, which helps it maintain its relevance when other similar films of the period are dated. Highly recommended, except not this transfer.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Generally speaking, this is a very average transfer. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Unfortunately, it is not 16x9 enhanced, being presented window-boxed, with black borders on all sides of the frame. It is also in the wrong aspect ratio, as the film was released in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Comparison with screen caps of overseas releases indicates that this transfer has been cropped on both sides.

    The transfer is clearly taken from less than pristine material, and while it is sharp, it is possible to imagine the image being sharper and cleaner. Detail levels are reasonable, though it does look like it has been taken from duplicate material, as there is a slight softness to the video. Contrast levels are too high, with a loss of detail in both the brighter and darkness areas of the image. Shadow detail is quite poor as a consequence, with Marcello's dark suit lacking any definition in most scenes. The black and white photography does not come across as well as it should.

    There are a couple of film to video artefacts present. The most annoying of these is the continuous aliasing, which affects every scene to some extent. This is noticeable even without the frame zoomed in on a widescreen television, with the image area roughly as it would be on a 68cm device. Moire is also in evidence several times. The most severe of these instances causes false colours to appear, such as on the collar of Marcello's striped shirt at 57:02. There are also occasional frame jumps, though these are more likely to be inherent in the source material. Telecine wobble is evident during the opening credits.

    Film artefacts are visible in abundance. These range from dust, scratches, small white flecks and bits of dirt to more significant print damage. There are severe splice marks at 87:40 and 149:46.

    English subtitles are provided. These are burned-in, but into the black area beneath the frame, which prevents the viewer from using the zoom function on a widescreen television. The subtitles are well done up to a point, with no spelling or grammar issues, but there are a lot of lines of dialogue that are not translated.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change placed at 85:12. It is well positioned during a blackout between scenes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Most of the dialogue is in Italian, though there are some brief passages in English and German.

    The audio is a little disappointing. The dialogue is generally clear, but the audio transfer is strident in the louder passages and there is some hiss and crackle early in the film. The audio generally has a thin and boxy sound, perhaps acceptable on VHS or in a revival cinema but not on DVD, at least not if you want to own a transfer of the best possible quality.

    Audio sync is very poor most of the time, though this is the nature of the film. It was shot silently with the actors speaking in their own languages, then dubbed in the studio subsequently. Many of the actors dubbed their own voices, including Nico whose voice is quite distinctive, but a few have voices obviously not their own. This is something you have to live with if you watch a lot of Italian films of more than a decade or two ago.

    The music score is by arguably the greatest of Italian film composers, Nino Rota. It is highly memorable and very evocative of the era. There are a couple of interpolated popular songs as well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Animation and Audio

    The main menu has some footage of the Trevi Fountain scene in the background, together with some music from the film.

Filmographies

    Not-so-detailed filmographies of the director and star. These do not indicate the role the director played on the films listed, so not only are there several films he wrote but did not direct, it also lists Sweet Charity, which was simply based on the story of one of his films (La Notti di Cabiria, which is not listed).

Theatrical Trailer (2:03)

    This is an Italian trailer in letterboxed widescreen. It has no subtitles, though this is not such a problem given that it has no dialogue. It is in about the same condition as the feature.

Trailers - Bagdad Cafe, Cinema Paradiso, Cyrano de Bergerac (4:52)

    Three irrelevant and uninteresting trailers. The first two are 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are a number of editions of this film on DVD. From Koch Lorber comes the Region 1 version. It is in the original aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced. As extras it contains:

    By all accounts, the film has been restored and this release is much better than the Region 4. It also has a remixed 5.1 soundtrack as well as the original mono.

    The UK Region 2 edition from Momentum seems to be in a wider aspect ratio than the original and is not 16x9 enhanced. It features a lot of film artefacts and has a poor soundtrack. The extras run to a filmography, synopsis and some production notes.

    The second UK Region 2 release by Nouveaux Pictures is in the correct aspect ratio, with few film artefacts and is well cleaned up. There seem to be some flaws in the contrast and similar aliasing and moire issues to the Region 4. The sole extra is an interview with Anita Ekberg.

    By all accounts the best Region 2 transfer comes from Medusa, an Italian distributor. This is a two disc set with the feature on one disc and extras on the other. Unfortunately, while the feature has English subtitles, the extras, apart from a short work called Cinema Forever, do not. According to some reviews the video quality on the Medusa is superior to the Region 1.

    It appears that either the Region 2 Medusa or the Region 1 is preferable to the Region 4.

Summary

    A classic film. A pity about the transfer and the lack of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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la dolce vita R2 - flixyflox