Satyricon (Fellini) (1969)

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Released 22-Sep-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 124:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Federico Fellini
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Martin Potter
Hiram Keller
Max Born
Salvo Randone
Alain Cuny
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Tod Dockstader
Ilhan Mimaroglu
Nino Rota


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (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 No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Hungarian
Greek
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    At first glance, a film adaptation of a book by Petronius, written at around the time of Emperor Nero of the Roman Empire, does not seem like a terribly exciting basis for a story. What is worse is that the book itself has been lost, and only fragments survive.

    However, Federico Fellini did make a rather interesting, and unconventional, film out of it. Building on the fragmentary nature of the surviving parts of the book, Fellini deliberately turns the plot into a set of disjointed and barely connected episodes, executed as a set of bizarre and grotesque images of scandalous, depraved and decadent scenes.

    Perhaps to accentuate the disjointed and episodic nature of the storyline, the sets used to film the various scenes are rather stark, spartan, and theatrical. I felt like I was watching a play, or an opera, rather than a film. The end result is either thought provoking, or disgusting and nonsensical, depending on your frame of mind.

    Encolpio (Martin Potter) and Ascilto (Hiram Keller) are two students. Students of what? Art, possibly? Love, perhaps? Or maybe life itself? Who knows, although I suspect potentially all three. Anyway, the beginning of the film shows them fighting over a lover - a beautiful and effeminate boy named Gitone (Max Born).

    Gitone had previously ran away with Ascilto, who then promptly sold the boy to an actor named Vernacchio (Fanfulla). Encolpio manages to "rescue" Gitone, only to lose the boy to Ascilto once more. Next thing you know, an earthquake destroys the house of ill repute that Encolpio spent the night in.

    In the next scene, Encolpio is at an art gallery and meets a poet called Eumolpo (Salvo Randone). Eumolpo takes Encolpio to the court of Trimalcione (Mario Romagnoli), the local Caesar where a wild and decadent feast is taking place. After much debauchery, we are introduced to a mini-story within the story of a widow who meets a new lover whilst grieving over the body of her late husband. The lover is a soldier who is supposed to guard the body of a thief nailed a stake. When the body of the thief disappears, the woman offers the body of her dead husband in replacement, thus leading to the line: "Better to hang a dead husband than a living lover."

    Then we see Encolpio on a rocky sea shore. Just as he is reunited with Ascilto and Gitone, they get kidnapped by a group of sailors led by Lichas (Alain Cuny). Thus begins a long voyage by sea to who knows where. Along the way, Lichas falls in love with Encolpio and decides to "marry" him. Alas, the union does not last long and soon Lichas is killed by rivals.

    We now turn to a story of a Roman nobleman (Joseph Wheeler) - supposedly Petronius himself - who decides to commit suicide before being arrested. He frees all his slaves. When he and his companion die, along come Encolpio and Ascilto for a visit. They roam about the grand house, and meets an Ethiopian slave girl hiding there.

    The next scene features our two students encountering a nymphomaniac in the desert. Her family hopes to "cure" her by taking her to see a demigod named Hermaphrodite - a being who is half man and half woman. Encolpio and Ascilto hatch a plan to kidnap Hermaphrodite but unfortunately the demigod dies. Encolpio is then captured and forced to fight the fearsome Minotaur (George Eastman). Somehow Encolpio survives by appealing to the Minotaur, but discovers he has now become impotent.

    Desperate, he seeks Enotea (Donyale Luna) who is his only hope for a cure. He meets up with Ascilto again, and together they hasten to accompany Eumolpo who is sailing on a ship to Africa, laden with treasures beyond imagination. Unfortunately, Eumolpo dies before the ship launches. He leaves a curious will and last testament to his friends - if they wish to have a share in his riches, they must all join together and eat the remains of his body.

    For once, I can safely reveal the ending without spoiling the storyline. Indeed, the ending of the film does not even correspond to the ending of the story, since the ending of the book has been lost, along with the rest of the book. The film ends in mid-sentence, just like the existing fragments of the book, and the scene dissolves into a set of fresco ruins depicting various characters and scenes from the film, which I thought was a very nice touch. To quote Fellini himself: "In Satyricon, I was influenced by the look of frescoes. At the end, these people, whose lives were so real to them, are now only crumbling frescoes."

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We are treated to a rather gorgeous widescreen 2.35:1 transfer, 16x9 enhanced, from a restored 35mm film source.

    Shot using anamorphic lenses, grain is present but not distracting. The film stock used has high contrast characteristics resulting in some wonderfully vivid colours and strong depth.

    There are really no issues to complain about. The film source is extraordinarily clean and devoid of marks, and there are no compression artefacts to be seen.

    There are several subtitle tracks available, including English for the Hearing Impaired, German for the Hearing Impaired, and various other European languages. I was disappointed that the English subtitles did not attempt to translate the various phrases uttered in Vulgar Latin, and at one stage the dialogue is transcribed in German (around 55 minutes into the film)! I am not sure whether this was a mistake or intentional (since the German dialogue appear to correspond to what was being said in the film). I also noticed one dialogue line in English in the film. Perhaps Fellini was deliberately introducing other languages in the dialogue as a reference to the way the text in the book has been corrupted over the years.

    This is a single-sided, dual-layered disc, formatted RSDL. The layer change occurs at the end of Chapter 8 around 64:56 during a fade to black so should be unnoticeable.

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

Audio

    There are several audio tracks on the disc: German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). I listened to the Italian audio track.

    The fidelity and naturalness of the audio track is above average, given the age of the film, but the track suffers from a limited frequency range and attenuated highs and lows. I suspect the audio track is in mono, since there are not instances of stereo effects.

    Although dialogue clarity is average, the most significant issue in the film is the persistent and rather annoying lack of audio synchronization. Indeed, the number of dialogue lines that are synchronized are so few that just about the entire film is out of sync. This is not really an issue with the transfer, since I've been told the audio mis-synchronization is in the source and that almost all the dialogue has been looped in during post-production (and very badly done too, judging by the results).

    The background music is vaguely neo-modern and occasionally atonal. It is composed by several people, including Nino Rota.

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

Extras

    A film like this cries out for a wealth of bonus materials to "explain" the storyline. Instead, all we get is a theatrical trailer.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced but static. Menus are available in several languages.

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

    This is presented in 2.35:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    I would rate both versions as substantially the same, although it would have been interesting to hear an English version of the audio track.

Summary

    Satyricon is an adaptation of fragments of a book by Petronius, by the famed Italian film director Federico Fellini.

    The video transfer quality is excellent.

    The audio transfer quality is above average, although the source has numerous audio synchronization issues.

    The only extra is a theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Thursday, September 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RP82, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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