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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Stage > Drama > History > Romance > Sex > Italy > Felliniís The Clowns (1971/Raro Video DVD) + Last Tango In Paris (NC-17/1972/MGM Blu-ray) + Senso (1954/Criterion Blu-ray)

Felliniís The Clowns (1971/Raro Video DVD) + Last Tango In Paris (NC-17/1972/MGM Blu-ray) + Senso (1954/Criterion Blu-ray)


Picture: C+/B-/B†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: B-/C-/B†††† Films: B (Clowns: B-)



Though the Italian Cinema was the only other cinema standing after WWII besides Hollywood, there was much rebuilding involved.Italian spectacles gave way top Italian Neo-Realism as well as some important filmmakers.Here are unique, key works from each.


First we have The Clowns, a 1971 TV project by Federico Fellini for Italian Television (and RAI) that actually had a U.S. theatrical film release before Amarcord (reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and has now been released in a new DVD edition by Raro Video.Like TV projects by other major directors of the time (Ingmar Bergmanís Magic Flute, Jacques Tatiís Parade, reviewed elsewhere on this site), the project is self-reflective, deconstructive and wants to dig into the backstage happenings of performers, their art and how that relates to the stage and the world.


Some of the views of childhood foreshadow Amarcord, but more eccentric characters are on hand, Nino Rota does the music, Anita Ekberg makes a cameo that references her appearance in La Dolce Vita (also reviewed on this site) and Fellini reveals more of his dreams, memories and even nightmares.He loved clowns, this is a tribute and it is a film worth seeing once, but know it is not a work to find easy entry into.This includes the differences between two types of clowns: white and augusto.This includes every clown in between. A very interesting work indeed.


Bernardo Bertolucciís Last Tango In Paris (1972) continues to be one of the most daring and boldest films any of its participants ever made.A mix of sex, ideology and daring, Marlon Brando plays an older man who gets involved anonymously and thoroughly with a much younger, sexier Maria Schneider.At the time, the sex scenes alone were shocking, even as XXX films had begun to become common after Deep Throat the same year, but the film offers so much more, more twists and remains one of the most intelligent films about sexuality ever made.


It has dated in some ways, but it holds much of its impact and is just an amazing film that still possesses much of its power today, remarkably.


Finally we have Luchino Viscontiís Senso (1954), a romance set in 19th Century Italy as Austrians occupy the country.Originally intended to star Ingrid Bergman and Marlon Brando, Bergman turned it down to be with Roberto Rossellini and the studio picked Farley Granger over Brando thinking Granger was the better bet to have a longer career.Granger is an Austrian who falls for a countess (Alida Valli) who is actually part of the secret resistance to drive them out of the country.


This rich, beautifully shot film was one of the very first Technicolor films ever made in Italy and was a big even film.Because of his leftist politics (and being gay), Viscontiís films have been overly ignored and rarely made it to the U.S., but this is an amazing film and proves that he may very well be the most underrated Italian filmmaker of all time.This is a remarkable, powerful film with mature themes and fine performances.Visconti makes it involving and it takes us someplace we have not been before.I like this film very much and recommend it as strongly as any of the offerings here.Criterion has delivered a great Blu-ray and now everyone can appreciate the film.I hope the rest of Viscontiís films make it to Blu-ray soon.


All the films were issued in three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor prints, but these versions vary in capturing what are the best and most valuable possible prints of these keys works.The 1.33 X 1 image on Clowns has some good shots, but it is apparent that some of the footage is from a video source and does not look as good, while color can be good ion some shots and plugged up in others.Detail is the same way, but Raro has fixed this up the best they can and unless such a print surfaces, this may never look better.I would still like to see a Blu-ray sometime.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital AVC @ 38 MBPS High Definition image transfers on Tango is not bad, but has some shots that are not as good as others and detail can be an issue.It could look better, but this is the best it has ever looked on home video.Too bad MGM did not license this to Criterion as Vittorio Storaroís cinematography deserves even better.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Senso was restored by Martin Scorseseís Film Foundation and is amazing in capturing the range of color this film offers, though some shots can look grainy or faded, that is not very often and considering this is the oldest film, it still manages to look the best of the five.


The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Clowns shows its age, but can sound pretty good for being the only lossy mix of the three releases.Tango has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono mix that sounds pretty good for its age, though maybe the sound could be cleaned and I know MGM let Rykodisc issue the soundtrack on a now out-of-print CD.Could this be upgraded to stereo?Senso has a restored Italian soundtrack in PCM 2.0 Mono sound comes form the restored optical track on a restored 35mm print and though much of the audio was looped and recorded in post-production, sounds quite good for its age.


A trailer is the only extra on Tango, while Clowns has a high quality 50-pages booklet with essays by Fellini and Fellini scholars, is illustration heavy and nicely bound, while the actual DVD includes Adriano Apraís visual essay Felliniís Circus and Felliniís 1953 black and white short (16 minutes/35mm film) called Un Agenzia Matrimoniale.Extras on Senso include a shorter English-language version titled The Wanton Countess that features the original English-spoken dialogue recordings by the Granger and other actors very much worth seeing after the restored longer version, visual essay by scholar Peter Cowie, 1966 BBC documentary Man Of Three World: Luchino Visconti, new documentary Viva Verdi and new Making Of Senso featurette.There is also yet another informative booklet in the Blu-ray case with technical information on the film, how it was restored and two essays all about the film and its participants.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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