La Dolce Vita: Collectors Edition (1960)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 5-Sep-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Magic Of Fellini
Interviews-Cast-Anita Ekberg
Featurette-Interview With Maurizio Porro (Film Critic)
Featurette-Cinema Forever
Featurette-Fellini To New York
Featurette-Fellini TV Collection
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-Fellini Trailer Collection
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 167:09 (Case: 178)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (81:48)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 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 Slip Case
RPI $34.95 Music Nino Rota
Armando Trovajoli


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
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

    The Sweet Life is led by Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni), a gossip columnist. His life revolves around the street café and nightlife scene of Rome where he waits for something to happen. So do a band of photographers who hang around him. The only one who is named in the film is Paparazzo, a ruthless and unscrupulous fellow. Marcello has a live-in girlfriend, Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), who is by turns loving, insanely jealous and emotionally disturbed. Marcello does not want to formalise their relationship, as he sees no need to end the casual encounters he has with women he meets. One such is Maddalena (Anouk Aimée), who may be just a promiscuous society belle or who may be a high-class call-girl.

    Marcello used to harbour dreams of becoming an important writer. His poet friend Steiner (Alain Cuny) seemingly has the life that Marcello would have aspired to: a respected career, a devoted wife and two loving children. But Steiner hides terrible anxiety behind his contented façade, as though the life he leads is unsatisfying.

    Marcello is directionless perhaps because he has no real role model to follow. His father was a travelling champagne salesman. When his ageing papa visits Rome Marcello is unable to connect with him.

    Our hero is also distracted from the emptiness of his own life by the spectacle around him. The visit of a glamorous foreign movie star (Anita Ekberg) who may be attracted to him leads him nowhere. A purported vision of the Virgin Mary in a field near Rome proves to be little more than an excuse for a media circus and mass hysteria in driving rain. The banal acts in nightclubs are little different from the hollow pleasures of the upper classes.

    As though the film was cobbled together from a set of short stories about the same character, the movie unfolds like a series of vignettes. But it does have a narrative arc, with Marcello changing from the smooth, dispassionate society reporter into a wasted and seedy publicity agent. However the film does succeed as a series of virtuoso episodes. It opens with Christ descending from the heavens via a statue dangling from a helicopter. Marcello in a separate helicopter cannot resist the opportunity to try to chat up some rooftop sunbathers, but they are unable to communicate due to the noise of the engine. The film has a neat symmetry, as it ends with a Moloch dredged up from the depths (in the form of a giant dead ray) onto a beach. A young woman whom Marcello met earlier in the film yells at him across a channel, but he cannot hear her for the sound of the waves.

    The most famous episode is of course that involving the visiting film star, unforgettably played by Anita Ekberg in that black dress that looks like it is about to overflow (the miracles of double-sided tape!) as she frolics in the Trevi Fountain. But the whole film is just as compelling. The fine cast also includes Lex Barker as the film star's drunken husband and Jacques Sernas as Marcello's film star employer in the final sequence. This last sequence features an at-the-time scandalous striptease by Nadia Gray. German chanteuse Nico is also visible in an earlier segment. Director Federico Fellini co-opted a few members of the Italian aristocracy, including princes, counts and contessas to effectively play themselves. We also see here the germination of Fellini's fascination with the grotesque and unusual, though not to the fore as it was in his later work.

    The bulwark of the movie is Marcello Mastroianni, who would come to be Fellini's alter ego. He is perfect in the role, with the right combination of world-weariness and angst. Oddly enough this new Region 4 edition seems to be the only one worldwide that has his photograph on the cover, as the usual selling point of the film is Ekberg in that dress. Not that I'm complaining about that.

    This new release is also a considerable improvement on Umbrella's previous issue. Not that it is perfect by any means, but it is worth the cost to upgrade.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While the video transfer is very good and is much better than the previous Region 4 release, I was hoping it would be better than it is. For the most part the transfer is clean and sharp. There is plenty of detail visible. Contrast is very good, with no issues with shadow detail. The black and white original comes across well with some solid blacks and clean whites.

    The issues though start with aliasing, which is prevalent throughout. While it is never severe, there is almost always a hint of a shimmer in the background. Diagonal lines suffer from jaggedness.

    Though the film has been restored from a more pristine original than the previous Region 4 release, this one is far from perfect. There are innumerable splice marks, mostly at cuts but often during shots. They look to have had some attention paid to them to reduce their severity, but they are still quite noticeable. I also noticed a few glitches that on watching the movie frame by frame turned out to be tears in the film. There are a few film artefacts as well, mainly in the form of white flecks which appear from time to time.

    Normally I would note the times at which some of the issues occur, but my player would not read the time information from the film and instead just showed PLAY on the display. This is something I normally associate with just the extras on an Umbrella release, but on this set every item is affected.

    Optional English subtitles are provided. These are in yellow font and are quite readable. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors, and I think only one or two lines of dialogue went untranslated.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted. The layer change occurs during a scene in Steiner's apartment at 81:48. When my player reached this point the playback froze completely, and I was only able to continue by using the fast forward button to get past the layer break.

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

Audio

    The sole audio track is Italian Dolby Digital 1.0, which approximates the original audio.

    I guess the soundtrack must have deteriorated with age, as this transfer does not sound as good as it looks. The audio has distortions and congestion, preventing the sound from being clear in some of the more complex sequences, for example where several people are talking at once or where someone is talking over music. The quieter passages fare best. As most of the film is in Italian, this is not an issue for English speakers who read the dialogue. There are a few lines in English, all of which are intelligible.

    The entire movie is dubbed. I'm pretty sure that Mastroianni, Ekberg and Barker dubbed themselves. Nico's husky voice is also certainly her own. As to the rest of the cast I cannot be certain whether the actor's own voices are retained.

    The music score is one of Nino Rota's best, well capturing that feeling of a decaying society and yet still ironically commenting on the action. It includes a few arrangements of American songs. The music comes across reasonably well but does not sound nearly as good as an original soundtrack album that I have.

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

Extras

    The trailer is on Disc One, and the rest of the extras are on Disc Two.

Menu Animation & Audio

    The menu is animated with some clips from the film, underscored by some of the music.

Theatrical Trailer (2:00)

    This is the same theatrical trailer that appeared on the previous release, a clever dialogue-free effort that uses clips and stills with the drum music that appears in the final set-piece episode.

Featurette-Magic Of Fellini (55:22)

    I have seen this featurette before on television. It consists of old interview footage with Fellini, some behind the scenes footage and more recent interviews. There are interviews with Claudia Cardinale, Lina Wertmuller, Woody Allen, Tullio Pinelli and a few other Fellini collaborators. Donald Sutherland appears in what looks to be a stage appearance where he relates a few stories about his experiences with the director to the audience. The featurette attempts to explain the Fellini magic, but doesn't quite manage to convey it. It isn't helped by problematic video, which looks like it comes from a video master. The case says this runs 86 minutes.

Interviews-Cast-Anita Ekberg (18:31)

    A 2004 interview with the star, who seems to have lost a bit of weight since the early 1990s. She reminisces about the film with some candour, noting that Fellini asked her to help write her part, and she discusses the autobiographical elements in the film. One such is the character played by Lex Barker, who is based on Ekberg's then-husband Anthony Steel, who was violent when intoxicated. This extra is in English.

Featurette-Interview With Maurizio Porro (Film Critic) (5:42)

    A 2004 piece to camera by an Italian film critic, in Italian with subtitles. I'm not entirely sure what he was trying to say some of the time, as the subtitling is atrocious. There are grammatical and spelling mistakes, and a few words that defy interpretation such as disgregating and irrepetible. I think I worked out what anectodal meant.

Featurette-Cinema Forever (7:36)

    A short film with English narration that briefly discusses the work of an Italian film restorer, who previously had a long career working in the lab developing some of the great films of the Italian cinema.

Featurette-Fellini To New York (26:12)

    Another frustrating extra. This is an Italian documentary about an exhibition in 2003 in New York devoted to Fellini's work, featuring his sketches and other materials. The frustrating part is the subtitling. The Italian voice-over gets no subtitling. Italians interviewed in Italian get subtitles, but the American movie types interviewed in English have their comments obliterated by an Italian overdub which is not subtitled.

Featurette-Fellini TV Collection (34:52)

    This is collection of 24 bogus television commercials that Fellini made for his 1985 film Ginger e Fred but did not use. They are in poor condition video-wise and range from the humorous to the bizarre. All have burned-in English subtitles.

Biographies-Cast & Crew

    Text biographies of Fellini, Mastroianni and Ekberg.

Trailer-Fellini Trailer Collection (13:55)

    A selection of trailers for other Fellini releases from Umbrella, namely , Il Bidone, I Vitelloni, Juliet of the Spirits and Open City (which he co-wrote but did not direct).

R4 vs R1

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

    In my review of the previous Region 4 release I recommended the Italian and US releases as the best. Now I would have thought that the honours would be about even. But I did not reckon on a new Region 1 release.

    Koch Lorber's original Region 1 version is in the original aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced. As extras it contains:

    By all accounts the film has been restored and has much the same video quality as the new Region 4. It also has a remixed 5.1 soundtrack as well as the original mono, which is no recommendation. I also think that the Schickel commentary is not much of an extra as it may seem, based on the commentaries of his that I have heard. Reviews of the disc tend to bear this out.

    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 original Region 4 release. The sole extra is an interview with Anita Ekberg. I don't think that this is the same interview as on the new Region 4.

    The best Region 2 transfer seems to come 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 Cinema Forever (which I assume is the same featurette as on the new Region 4), do not. According to some reviews the video quality on the Medusa is superior to the Region 1.

    Based on the available information I would suggest that the Medusa, the original Koch Lorber and the new Umbrella are all on a par with each other as regards the quality of the film transfer, so the choice comes down to extras and price. On the latter score the Umbrella will be hard to beat. However Koch Lorber are releasing a Deluxe Collector's Edition in November 2005, which will run to three discs and in addition to their previous edition will include the following extras:

    It will also have a stereo soundtrack in addition to the mono and surround tracks. The catch is the recommended retail price of US$79.95, which may be a bit too much for most purchasers.

Summary

    A pivotal film in the history of cinema, La Dolce Vita effectively opened the door to the liberated cinema of the 1960s, though it has a moral undercurrent that was rarely replicated. A number of virtuoso set-pieces and some fine acting make this one of the great films of the cinema.

    The video quality is excellent but not perfect.

    The audio quality is an improvement on the previous Region 4 release and is perhaps as good as can be expected.

    There are some good extras let down by subtitling problems.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, October 26, 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

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE