Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) (Directors Suite) (1954)

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Released 8-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Dr Adrian Martin
Featurette-Hollywood Remembers : Ingrid Bergman (26.06)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 81:43 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roberto Rossellini
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ingrid Bergman
George Sanders
Maria Mauban
Anna Proclemer
Paul Muller
Anthony La Penna
Natalia Ray
Jackie Frost
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Renzo Rossellini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

   

I saw your films Open City and Paisan, and enjoyed them very much.
If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German,
who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only "Ti amo",
I am ready to come and made a film with you.

Ingrid Bergman

In 1948, one of the brightest and most loved stars in Hollywood wrote to the Italian director, Roberto Rossellini who had spearheaded the Italian neo-realist movement with the above films. From the response to the letter Rossellini hurriedly sent;

I have just received with great emotion your letter……
It is absolutely true that I dreamed of making a film with you and
from this very moment I will do everything to see that such a dream becomes a reality as soon as possible.

it was obvious that he reciprocated the respect.

It was also inevitable that they would make at least one film together. What was probably not predictable is that this simple exchange of correspondence would lead to a scandal which rocked conservative America so deeply that Bergman became an outcast for almost 7 years.

Not long after writing the letter, Bergman travelled to Italy in order to make the film Stromboli. Before long they were involved in a passionate relationship and Bergman was pregnant and engaged to be married. All this would have been well and good but for the minor point that both were already married to others at the time. Before long their affair achieved international notoriety such that Bergman was even described in the US Senate as a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil!

All this background really goes someway to explain, is how Bergman 's films in this Italian period are unfairly ignored in comparison to her golden years from 1942 to 1948 when she scored multiple Oscar nominations (and a statuette itself) for films such as Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Gaslight, Spellbound, Notorious and Joan of Arc.

Journey in Italy is one such ignored film. The French have longed recognised its quality. Francois Truffaut described it as the first modern film and it has moments that are powerful yet sublime.

The film was completed in 1954 and not only impressed the French, but also the rising group of Italian directors such as Fellini, Visconti and Antonioni. Martin Scorsese acknowledges the influence upon him not only of Rossellini but the film in his wonderful documentary My Voyage to Italy, the title being a take on Rossellini 's film.

The plot for the film is slight. Bergman plays Katherine, the wife of Alexander played by George Sanders . Katherine and Alexander are wealthy and intelligent, stylish and sophisticated but their marriage lacks any real warmth. They decide to drive from London to Naples to dispose of the real estate of a deceased uncle. Both realise that although they have been married for many years they hardly know each other as people.

Each finds their own disconnect within the city. Katherine wanders alone through the museums and ruins of Naples pondering lost love, wondering whether her choice of husband was a mistake and querying their decision not to have a child.

Alexander leaves Naples to escape Katherine and finds himself in the company of more rich attractive women. When his attempts at seduction of a married woman fails he even picks up a prostitute but draws back from the final act of cheating on his wife.

Their arguments gather heat and it seems that nothing keeps them together. When a resolution comes (one way or another) it is a little quick but perhaps best represents the nature of this couple.

By far the greatest innovation of the work is the rough, improvisational, impulsive nature of the story and the filmmaking process. In a recent biography Bergman described the shooting process as thoroughly modern but also difficult for the stars. Rossellini frequently worked entirely without a script and would ask the actors to improvise their dialogue as they went along. However, it was unrehearsed and the improvisation was truly spontaneous ,often being made up on the spot. This was hard for Bergman , who was brought up on highly organized film production, particularly working with Hitchcock, but Sanders found it even more dispiriting. Bergman says that she found him curled up in a corner weeping at the frustration.

For his part Sanders remembered the shooting as particularly hard on Bergman who was breaking up from Rossellini at the time. He recalls her tears as being a constant companion to shooting.

The effect on the film is profound. The "dialogue" is frequently meandering and meaningless and the arguments between the couple are often ill-formed and banal - just like in real life. We start the film on the side of Bergman as the gruff, cynical Sanders suggests she has had a lot to put up with. As the film goes on, however, we glimpse her faults and realise that it takes two to make a marriage work and two to bring it down.

Journey in Italy is not exactly a masterpiece. It is a thoroughly modern work that precipitated the road movies where the meaning is to be found in the journey alone.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Journey in Italy was shot on 35mm film at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It comes to DVD in a full frame 1.33:1 transfer. Naturally, it is not 16x9 enhanced.

There are limited copies of the film floating around the world. It appears that there is only one available for DVD production. This is a version apparently available in PAL in Region 2. Although there is talk of a Criterion Collection version, nothing has eventuated.

All this is by way of saying that the film has been transferred to DVD in a version which is watchable and respectable to the original vision without having been restored and remastered.

As a result, the picture quality fluctuates at times. This is particularly so in the cut shots between the couple (and Bergman without Sanders ) when she is travelling along the Neapolitan streets. The stock and filming of the exterior is clearly different from the shots of the interior of the car. Some scenes look sharper than others.

There is also an abundance of artefacts including stray hairs and other markings which pop up throughout the length of the film. There is a little damage. There are a few moments of aliasing and the contrast is set a little high and at times looks over exposed. The grain is perfectly appropriate to the age of the film and is not excessive.

Overall it must be said that, considering its age and history, this is a print in passably good condition.

It is difficult to be too critical of a film that is lucky to have found its way onto DVD shelves. This is not an example of a DVD producer simply buying a film and slapping it onto DVD to make some quick money. Lovers of the film will find little to criticise in the transfer.

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

Audio

    Journey in Italy carries an English soundtrack which is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono running at 192 kb/s.

The leads speak in English however most other characters speak in Italian which is dubbed. The dubbing is not great and rarely suits the character.

In fact, it is fair to say that the whole film has been looped. The sound quality fluctuates wildly and occasionally takes on the "head in a bucket" quality.

In other words the sound quality generally struggles to match the visual quality. The sound is always thin and there is a noticeable hiss. There are some pops and crackles from time to time.

Audio sync wavers according to the skill of the actors. In most scenes with the leads it was fine as the characters were speaking in their natural language.

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

Extras

The extras on this DVD consist of an audio commentary and a documentary.

Audio Commentary: Dr Adrian Martin

Dr Adrian Martin of Monash University provides a commentary on the film. This is interesting, as the other Madman Entertainment classic Italian films I have viewed and reviewed have other commentators. Dr Martin has given commentaries on some French films from Jean Cocteau as well as the recent edition of The Blue Angel.

His commentaries are always insightful. The commentaries are well prepared with detailed production history with a little trivia and gossip about the actors and crew thrown in. He is also very alive to the critical interpretation of the film and is able to interpret Rossellini 's techniques in the film in a way which is both interesting to listen to and genuinely informative.

Featurette Hollywood Remembers Ingrid Bergman

I have seen perhaps six iterations of the Hollywood Remembers series and have disliked every one. For the uninitiated, this is a series of excerpts of films, usually from trailers, made by the star, backed with a cheesy narration. The use of trailers may stem from the fact that trailers are usually in the public domain and therefore it does not cost anything to put the documentary together.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that they are superficial and uninvolving summaries of the actor's career.

This one is a case in point. So far as the seven year period between 1949 and 1956 is concerned, Ingrid Bergman went to Italy and made some films. We see nothing of the films of that period and Journey in Italy is not even mentioned. There is not much interesting footage to be found in the film and the quality of it is invariably unwatchable as the trailers no doubt suffered at the hands of the projectionist. It is sad that there is no available feature or documentary on Bergman , Sanders or Rossellini that could be added to this film.

R4 vs R1

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

    As said, this DVD is available only in a Region 2 UK Pal edition. This contains an audio commentary by film historian Laura Mulbey. According to DVD Beaver, the commentary is of an interpretation and analysis of the film other than historical accounts of the shooting and production. It does not include the Hollywood Remembers extra on this DVD. I can think of no reason to choose the Region 2 over this Region DVD.

Summary

    Journey in Italy is a short but important film which is, in my mind, a real classic of Italian cinema that even today does not get the respect it probably deserves.
Given the age of the film and the fact that transfer has not been remastered, the image and sound quality of this DVD is perfectly acceptable.
The DVD features an excellent commentary track but the other extra is barely worth watching.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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