La Strada (1954)

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Released 15-Mar-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Paul Harris
Featurette-Giulietta Masina-The Power Of A Smile
Featurette-Federico Fellini's Autobiography
Booklet
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Leopard, The Battle Of Algiers, Down By Law, Tokyo Story
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 103:12
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (93:30) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Federico Fellini
Studio
Distributor
Dino De Laurentiis
Madman Entertainment
Starring Anthony Quinn
Giulietta Masina
Richard Basehart
Aldo Silvani
Marcella Rovere
Livia Venturini
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Nino Rota


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 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

††† The film opens with ZampanÚ (Anthony Quinn) buying Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) from her mother. ZampanÚ is a travelling performer who also took Gelsomina's older sister away with him, but she had died. ZampanÚ's act is a mixture of strongman demonstrations involving bursting a chain with his expanding chest and low-brow comedy. Gelsomina is a grown woman but is simple-minded and almost childlike.

††† ZampanÚ is a brute, teaching Gelsomina her routines by beating her as if she were a dog. He spends the money he earns on wine and women, but despite this a bond forms between the two. When they join a small circus, Gelsomina meets The Fool (Richard Basehart), a high-wire and clown act who likes nothing better than to taunt ZampanÚ. The Fool befriends Gelsomina, but tragedy ensues.

††† This was Fellini's third solo feature as director and his first international success. This international success was made possible by the use of two American actors in leading roles, something pushed by the two producers Carlo Ponti and Dino de Laurentiis (remarkably though just about everyone associated with the film apart from co- screenwriter Tullio Pinelli is dead, the two producers are still going strong). Originally they wanted Burt Lancaster to play ZampanÚ and de Laurentiis's then-wife Silvana Mangano as Gelsomina. Fortunately Fellini insisted on casting his own wife. Quinn was chosen partly because he was already working on another de Laurentiis epic Attila the Hun, and he would go from the La Strada set to the Attila set after a morning's shoot. Both Quinn and Masina are remarkable in this film. Masina mainly mimes her role which is at some times physically reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, though a quite different type of character. Quinn gives perhaps the best performance of his long career, making ZampanÚ repulsive and human at the same time. In the end he becomes a sympathetic character despite his brutality.

††† By contrast Basehart is less compelling as The Fool, partly because his acting style was more suited to brooding types, but mostly because he is overshadowed by the two leads. Fellini's direction is masterful even at this early stage of his career. Unlike his later self-indulgent excesses, everything in this film serves to propel a traditional narrative. Even so there are a few pointers to his later work, with the carnival atmosphere and small, almost surreal touches, like the three wandering musicians whose appearance is unexplained, and the lone horse wandering through the deserted streets.

††† The film is often cited as a break with neorealism, the fashion of Italian films and literature after the devastation of the war, where the intention was to show life as realistically as possible, usually involving the lower classes. However neorealism in films was already a spent force by 1954, and Fellini, though he had written the screenplays for several neorealist classics, had already moved away from the style by the time he became a director. While La Strada has a realistic backdrop, it is essentially a parable, and has only a surface resemblance to the neorealist school.

††† A genuine classic of the Italian cinema, La Strada was a major international success and won the first official Foreign Language Film Academy Award, one of four that Fellini would win. It remains a remarkable achievement.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† The film is presented in full-frame 1.33:1 and is of course not 16x9 enhanced. It was originally released in 1.37:1 so we are not missing much of the image with this transfer.

††† I have heard as yet unconfirmed reports that the video transfer contained on this disc emanates from Criterion, the US-based company that specialises in art cinema and has built a reputation for the quality of its releases. Unlike other such transfers I have seen from the Madman group, this one appears to be from a PAL master, as the running time is that of the Region 1 with PAL speed-up taken into account.

††† The transfer is very sharp indeed. A fine level of detail is visible, and the transfer is extremely clear revealing things I have never seen before. For example, at 78:42 you can see ZampanÚ's dark shadow on the ground, but you can also see a light shadow on the wall behind him caused by the film lighting. Contrast is superb, with the gradation of the black and white image of reference quality. Blacks are solid in bright light and whites are pure.

††† However there are some problems in this transfer, perhaps a result of so much material being squeezed onto a single dual-layered disc. Apart from the film which runs 104 minutes, there are two documentaries each running over 50 minutes, some trailers and an audio commentary. There are several artefacts present as a result. Aliasing can be seen throughout to some extent or another. There is significant shimmering on the shutters of Gelsomina's mother's house at 4:53, and during the rest of the film there is a faintly jagged appearance to straight edges. Also in some of the darker sequences there is significant low level noise, for example at 13:06 and 100:58. There is also some very faint motion blurring, most visible on the faces of the actors when they move, resulting in a very slight smearing effect.

††† The film has been thoroughly cleaned up for this DVD release. There is very little evidence of damage, though at times you can see where splice marks have been (almost) removed. There are almost no flecks or dirt in evidence. There is a noticeable flicker to the image, with variations in brightness between frames, and this can be a little distracting.

††† Optional subtitles are provided in English. Apart from American spelling there are only one or two jarring turns of phrase. All of the dialogue seems to be translated and the subtitles are well-timed. They appear in yellow font that may be a little small for some displays.

††† The disc is RSDL formatted with a smooth layer change perfectly placed during a fade to black at 93:30.

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

Audio

††† There are two dialogue tracks provided for this film, both in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and both original tracks. One is the Italian version, the other the English version. I listened to the former and sampled the latter.

††† Both tracks are authentic. The film was shot silent with an audio track dubbed in later. I believe Masina dubbed her own voice in the Italian version, but Quinn and Basehart are both dubbed by voice actors. The voice for Quinn is suitably gruff and has a similar timbre to the actor's own voice, but the voice used for Basehart is at a higher pitch and does not quite gel with the actor. For release into English-speaking countries an English language soundtrack was created and Quinn and Basehart did their own voices. Masina's voice is dubbed reasonably well.

††† On each track audio sync is merely approximate. Dialogue is clear throughout. The audio quality is excellent, without any distortion or hiss. The only real sign of age is in the music, which sounds a little constricted. I prefer the Italian version as it sounds as though it fits the film better, but the English version is as well transferred.

††† It would not be a Fellini film without a score by Nino Rota, and here he contributes one of his best. While during most of the film it is relegated to the background, the main theme is memorable and captures exactly that melancholy effect that Fellini seemed to have been aiming for.

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

Extras

††† Several substantial extras, though I would have preferred it if the documentaries had been included on a separate disc. Both show some compression artefacts and look not nearly as good as the film, even though they date from decades later.

Main Menu Audio

††† Some of Rota's score can be heard with the static main menu.

Audio Commentary-Paul Harris

††† Paul Harris is a Melbourne-based festival organiser and newspaper critic. He contributes a fine commentary which covers the careers of the principals, background information about the film and more. Well worth a listen, though his voice is not resonant like Richard Basehart's, as he (obviously tongue-in-cheek) claims.

Featurette-Giulietta Masina-The Power Of A Smile (52:39)

††† This 2002 Italian documentary is comprised solely of interviews with Masina. These seem to have been recorded for Italian television during the seventies and eighties. Rather than excerpts from her films, there are pieces of newsreel footage, television appearances and older interviews. The programme is widescreen but not 16x9 enhanced, and the non-removable subtitles appear in the black border at the bottom of the screen, preventing any attempt to zoom the image on a 16x9 television. The image quality is quite poor.

Featurette-Federico Fellini's Autobiography (55:00)

††† This 2000 documentary has screened on SBS in recent years. It is comprised of interviews with Fellini from the time of his first film through to the mid-1970s, most of which were shot on film. There are a few excerpts from his films as well.

Booklet

††† A four-page booklet that contains an informative two-page essay by Marcel Rawady. However, I will deduct points for use of the terms "psychocinemalogical", "Jungian 'functional' imagery" and "diegesis".

Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

††† This is an American release trailer which erroneously suggests the entire cast is English speaking.

Trailer-The Leopard, The Battle Of Algiers, Down By Law, Tokyo Story (12:16)

††† Propaganda for other Madman releases.

R4 vs R1

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

††† The US Region 1 comes from Criterion. In comparison to the Region 1, the Region 4 misses out on:

††† In comparison to the Region 4, the Region 1 misses out on:

††† The Criterion is a two-disc set and the audio is Dolby Digital 1.0.

††† The Italian Region 2 release has a Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian soundtrack as well as the mono original (a waste of time in my opinion), some interviews, a very short featurette, a photo gallery and cast and crew biographies. It has English subtitles.

††† The German Region 2 disc has no English subtitles and apart from the Italian soundtrack has a German dub.

††† I am inclined to call this a draw between the Region 4 and the Region 1, as I have not been able to make a direct comparison. The Region 4 has a slightly better extras package, but I have concerns about the video quality which I am not able to allay at this time.

Summary

††† A classic film that should be in every serious film lover's collection, looking almost brand-new in this fine transfer.

††† The video quality is very good.

††† The audio quality is also very good.

††† There are several fine extras, though the two documentaries are really background to the director and star and are not related to the film itself.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, May 07, 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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