Criterion manages to pack a lot onto this release, starting with an introduction by Alexander Payne. Itís a quick 5-minute video where the director recalls first seeing the film (on a VHS bootleg,) how it played a part in influencing Sideways, and the filmís presentation of Italy and its people at the time.
Criterion next digs up a 20-minute interview from 2004 with director Dino Risi, speaking with writer Jean A. Gili. Here the director talks about the filmís development, sharing some stories that played a part in influencing the script. He talks about the ďeventualĒ success of the film (it opened disappointingly but word-of-mouth saved it) and the producerís concern over the ending, while also covering the casting of Trintignant and Gassman.
Risi offers a nice overview of the filmís production, as does actor Jean-Louis Trintignant in his interview taken from French television before an airing of the film. How he got the role is actually a bit of a surprise, where he actually replaced actor Jacques Perrin, and he only got the role because he looked like a stand-in they were using for certain shots. He speaks fondly of working with Risi and Gassman (in his first comic performance) and recalls shooting the finale. It runs about 8-minutes.
Screenwriter Ettore Scola appears in the next interview filmed in 2013, talking about Italian comedies of the time and the development of the script. He ends up repeating some of the stories told by Risi, though spends more time on the development of Brunoís character. Yet again we hear about the producerís wish to change the ending and the filmís reception, though he does share an interesting story about meeting Dennis Hopper, who was very fond of the film (and may have played a bit into the development of Easy Rider.) Combined with the other firsthand accounts itís another good overview of the making of the film, though repeats a lot of what we heard in the other interviews.
Film scholar Rťmi Fournier Lanzoni next offers a 16-minute analysis of the film, talking about Italyís emergence from Fascism, the sudden economic boom it was experiencing, and how the film offers a representation of that, with Brunoís character sort of floating through, surrounded by the new consumerism and the change morals, the film not only criticizing the new Italy, but also criticizing some of its old ways. Lanzoni offers an excellent amount of context to the film, actually helping in my appreciation of it a bit more.
Back to Castiglioncello presents 11-minutes worth of excerpts from Líestate di Bruno Cortona: Castiglioncello nellíanno del sorpasso. Through these excerpts we get quick interviews with Marco Risi (the directorís son,) Paola Gassman (daughter of Vittorio,) actress Mila Stanic (who speaks solely of the train station scene,) Scola again, Trintignant, actor Giancarlo Giannini, and director of photography Alfio Contini. This segment focuses on the beach sequences, even providing colour home movies of the shoot. Contini talks about the photography (which he doesnít think was anything particularly special) and even talks about how they filmed the ending.
Criterion next includes the 55-minute 2006 documentary A Beautiful Vacation, which is a bio of director Dino Risi. It starts off in a dark manner, with Risi recalling his desire to kill himself (though the story turns a little comical when he recalls trying to buy the gun to do the job.) From here the documentary sort of goes through the numbers, focusing on how he got into his career (purely by accident) and then looks through a number of his films, focusing on his more famous ones, including Poor but Beautiful and of course Il sorpasso. It doesnít stand out from any other features of its type and really just goes by the expected rhythms. But itís still an informative introduction to the director and his work.
We then get more excerpts, this time from a 2005 documentary Speaking with Gassman. Risi yet again shows up, talking about his work with Gassman, from first meeting him to casting him in comedies, despite his dramatic work before then. Mixed in here are other interviews featuring Gassman and Risi, the two talking about their work, both failures and successes. It unfortunately gets a bit depressing when they look at the latter part of his career, where the audiences stopped going to his films and the actor fell into a depression. Despite this itís an excellent reflection on the work between Gassman and Risi.
The features then closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer.
The included booklet features some more scholarly material, starting with an essay by Phillip Lopate, looking at the filmís examination of Italyís economic boom and a number of references made in the film. Antonio Monda then writes about Italian comedies during the period between 1960 and 1963, and examines how this film connected with audiences at the time. Criterion closes the booklet off with a number of excerpts from books and interviews quoting Risi about his work.
Itís made up mostly of interviews with cast and crew, and thereís a lot of repetition in stories unfortunately, but the set has some excellent scholarly material and a lot of information about the production. 8/10