Essential Fellini


Part of a multi-title set


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One hundred years after his birth, Federico Fellini still stands apart as a giant of the cinema. The Italian maestro is defined by his dualities: the sacred and the profane, the masculine and the feminine, the provincial and the urbane. He began his career working in the slice-of-life poetry of neorealism, and though he soon spun off on his own freewheeling creative axis, he never lost that grounding, evoking his dreams, memories, and obsessions on increasingly grand scales in increasingly grand productions teeming with carnivalesque imagery and flights of phantasmagoric surrealism while maintaining an earthy, embodied connection to humanity. Bringing together fourteen of the director’s greatest spectacles, all beautifully restored, this centenary box set is a monument to an artist who conjured a cinematic universe all his own: a vision of the world as a three-ring circus in which his innermost infatuations, fears, and fantasies take center stage.

Picture 7/10

The eleventh disc in Criterion's massive box set Essential Fellini presents Roma, which is delivered on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The disc replicates the 2016 edition Criterion put out for the film, with the menu screen being the only difference, which means its using the same master used for that edition, sourced from a 2K restoration scanned from the original negative. This is the only 2K restoration in the set.

The presentation doesn't look to have been tinkered with in any way and it looks the same as the older edition, and this is what I wrote about that one:

It’s a nice, cleanly rendered image lacking any digital anomalies: no artifacts, no noise, no compression. It retains a natural, film-like look throughout, and delivers a sharp image where the source allows. When everything is perfectly in focus and framed just right, the level of detail can be very astonishing, like the fashion show sequence or the sequence with the underground frescos.

One area I’m still thrown off by, though, are the colours. It does look similar to the Masters of Cinema edition, but the colours do lean heavily on the yellow/greenish side of things. There are no pure whites, just this jaundiced, yellowish hue. There are some nice reds, greens, and blues, but I’m not entirely sure on the generally dirty, yellowish look to the film. This could be the intended look, but it does throw the image off in a few other ways, specifically the blacks, which can look a little milky, and shadow detail at is limited times.

The restoration itself has been methodical and I don’t recall any severe blemishes popping up, just some minor marks. And as stated before the digital presentation and encode itself are both solid: no digital problems popped out and clarity is superb, delivering some sharp textures and depth.

My opinion has change a wee-bit on it, though it comes down to me being more annoyed by that yellow tint this time around; it's much heavier than I had previously recalled. Black levels have also been impacted more than I had originally thought, but they're still pretty milky and crushing can be a bit brutal. Film grain still looks decent but does get a little noisy in a few darker shots.

The presentation for this film was certainly open to improvement, mostly in regards to colour, but sadly this has been left as is. It still has a sharp, film-like look, but it ends up being one of the weaker presentations in the set.

Audio 6/10

From the article for the 2016 edition:

The Italian mono presentation, delivered in linear PCM, sounds fine. Like a lot of Italian films at the time dialogue has been dubbed over, making voices sound a bit detached from their subjects. Lip movements also don’t always match to what is being said, most glaring during Gore Vidal’s cameo. This of course is all a byproduct of how the audio was put together and there isn’t much that could be done.

Outside of that the track is fine quality-wise. I didn’t detect any glaring issues and it sounds clean. Fidelity and range are lacking, lending a certain flatness in the end, but the track is otherwise fine.

Extras 7/10

Again, supplements are replicated exactly as they were in the 2016 edition:

Roma comes with a few supplements, starting with a new audio commentary by Frank Burke, credited as the author of the book Fellini’s Films. Burke offers a very academic analysis of the film, explaining rather plainly Fellini’s imagery, the possible context behind each of the film’s sections, the political commentary found underneath, along with sharing some technical aspects of the film. Although I can’t say the film is really all that subtle I was generally impressed by Burke’s skill in explaining what Fellini is doing, not just in this film but other works as well, so newcomers to Fellini may get quite a bit out of this if they feel lost. The unfortunate aspect to the track is Burke’s delivery, which is very dry, thanks mostly to the fact that it sounds like he’s reading from a prepared script, and he does so in a very matter-of-fact manner, without any real energy. I found Drew Casper’s commentary for The Asphalt Jungle a bit obnoxious, but I cannot say it was lacking energy. As it is, I think Burke has put together a solid academic track and I do recommend it, unfortunately there are times where it does feel like you’re stuck in a lecture hall.

The remaining supplements (found under the “Supplements” sub-menu naturally) start off with a 17-minute compilation of deleted scenes. Notes (with English subtitles translating them from Italian) open explaining when the scenes were cut out and how they were restored in 2010, pointing out that despite best efforts the colours are still faded. Footage from the finished film is edited into or around them to give an idea of their original placement in the film (the faded colours of the excised sequences help differentiate from the portions from the finished film). Surprisingly a lot of the cuts are actually quick snippets, and it appears that most of the footage was trimmed by Fellini to tighten up the film a bit (the notes mention that the studio did insist on this on trims, though). The sequence in the subway tunnels shows a lot of trims here and there, and the sequence where an individual is complaining to Fellini about how the film will present Rome to the rest of the world is put together a little differently. There’s also a deleted portion from the bordello that presents a calmer environment before the storm, and here I agree that keeping the energy up in that sequence was certainly the right move. The biggest cut, though, probably involves Marcello Mastroianni as himself, basically asking to be left alone until he realizes Fellini is there. Alberto Sordi also shows up. These are odd cuts but Burke, in his commentary, does talk about why they were probably trimmed out. None of the cuts really change much, but some of the trims admittedly are a bit odd.

Criterion then presents two interviews conducted by scholar Antonio Monda: one with director Paolo Sorrentino and another with Valerio Magrelli, poet and Fellini “friend” (I put that in quotes only because Magrelli underplays the friend aspect). Sorrento talks in detail about how Fellini’s films have effected and influenced him (La dolce vita being a big influence, at least in terms of The Great Beauty), and then explaining why his films work so well for him: it’s thanks to Fellini’s mix of technical skill and his imagination. He then talks about Roma and explains why he ranks the film higher in Fellini’s oeuvre Magrelli’s interview features the writer recalling working with Fellini and the various run-ins he had with him throughout the years before talking about his work and the appeals of his style. When it comes to Roma, though, Magrelli admits to not being fond of it initially, only coming around to it mildly over the years. I can’t say either of these interviews (which run 16-minutes and 17-minutes respectively) are terribly eye-opening, though neither are without value.

Next is Felliniana, a gallery of photos and promotional art presented as an 18-minute video segment with music from the film playing over it. In it you will find a large collection of posters from around the world, along with programs (which all appears to come from the collection of Don Young according to the notes), and these are then followed by production photos provided by MGM. In these photos we also get what appear to be photographs of a rehearsal for a scene that actually wasn’t filmed due to budget constraints.

The disc then closes with the film’s U.S. theatrical trailer[.]

 The material is good, even if the commentary is still a bit dry, but still feels a bit light in the end.


Criterion's previous Blu-ray edition was fine but open to improvement, feeling a bit light on features and sporting a presentation with questionable colours. Unfortunately none of that gets remedied here.

Part of a multi-title set


Year: 1950-1987
Time: 1691 total min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Licensors: Intramovies  |  Paramount Home Entertainment  |  Cristaldi Films  |  Gaumont  |  Cineteca di Bologna  |  Studio Canal  |  BetaFilm  |  Corinth Films  |  Istituto Luce  |  MGM Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 24 2020
MSRP: $249.95
15 Discs | BD-50
1.33:1 ratio
1.37:1 ratio
1.85:1 ratio
2.35:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Italian 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 Fellini: I'm a Born Liar, a feature-length documentary from 2002 by Damian Pettigrew that provides an unorthodox introduction to Federico Fellini's life and work and features extensive interviews with the director himself   First episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Interviews from 2002 with actors Brunella Bovo and Leopoldo Trieste, and Fellini friend and collaborator Moraldo Rossi   Archival audio interviews of Federico Fellini and his friends and family, conducted by critic Gideon Bachmann   Vitellonismo, a 2004 documentary featuring interviews with actors Leopoldo Trieste and Franco Interlenghi, assistant director Moraldo Rossi, Fellini biographer Tullio Kezich, Fellini friend Vincenzo Mollica, and former director of the Fellini Foundation Vittorio Boarini   Second episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Presentation of I vitelloni ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   Trailer for I vitelloni   Introduction for La strada from 2003 by filmmaker Martin Scorsese   Audio commentary from 2003 for La strada by Peter Bondanella, author of The Cinema of Federico Fellini   Federico Fellini’s Autobiography, a documentary originally broadcast on Italian television in 2000   Trailer for La strada   New audio commentary for Il bidone by Fellini scholar Frank Burke   Interview from 2013 with filmmaker Dominique Delouche   Giulietta Masina: The Power of a Smile, an hour-long documentary from 2004   Third episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Interview from 1999 with filmmaker Dominique Delouche   Audio interview from 1998 with producer Dino De Laurentiis   Trailers for Nights of Cabiria   Interview from 2014 with filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, an assistant director on La dolce vita   Interview from 2014 with scholar David Forgacs about the period in Italian history when La dolce vita was made   Interview from 2014 with Italian journalist Antonello Sarno   Interview from 1965 with Federico Fellini   Presentation of La dolce vita ephemera from the "Fellinana" archive of collector Don Young   Video essay for La dolce vita from 2014 by filmmaker Kogonada   Fourth episode of Second Look, Andre Delvaux's 1960 series of interviews with Federico Fellini for Belgian television   Documentary from 2009 by Antoine de Gaudemaron on the making of La dolce vita, featuring archival footage and interviews with actor Anouk Aimée and assistant director Dominique Delouche, among others   Introduction to from 2001 by filmmaker Terry Gilliam   Audio commentary from 2001 for , featuring film critic and Fellini friend Gideon Bachmann, and NYU film professor Antonio Monda   The Last Sequence, a 2003 documentary on Fellini's lost alternate ending for    Nino Rota: Between Cinema and Concert, a 1993 documentary about Fellini's longtime composer   Interviews from 2001 with actor Sandra Milo, filmmaker Lina Wertmüller, and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro   Rare photographs for from Bachmann's collection   Gallery of behind-the-scenes and production photos from    U.S. theatrical trailer for    4K restoration for Toby Dammit, Fellini's contribution to the omnibus film, Spirits of the Dead, based on tales by Edgar Allan Poe   Fellini: A Director's Notebook, a film by Fellini from 1969, newly restored in 4K   Reporter's Diary: "Zoom on Fellini," a behind-the-scenes documentary   Familiar Spirits, a 1969 interview with Federico Fellini by actor Ian Dallas   Trailer for Juliet of the Spirits   Audio commentary from 2014 for Fellini Satyricon featuring an adaptation of Eileen Lanouette Hughes’s 1971 memoir On the Set of “Fellini Satyricon”: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary   Ciao, Federico!, Gideon Bachmann’s documentary shot on the set of Fellini Satyricon   Archival interviews with Federico Fellini   Interview from 2011 with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno   Documentary from 2014 about Fellini’s adaptation of Petronius’s work, featuring interviews with classicists Luca Canali, a consultant on the film, and Joanna Paul   Interview from 2014 with photographer Mary Ellen Mark about her experiences on the set of Fellini Satyricon and her iconic photographs of Fellini and his film   Presentation of Fellini Satyricon ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   Trailer for Fellini Satyricon   Audio commentary for Roma featuring Frank Burke, author of Fellini’s Films   Deleted scenes from Roma   Interview from 2016 with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino   Interview from 2016 with poet and Fellini friend Valerio Magrelli   Presentation of Roma ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   Trailer for Roma   Audio commentary from 2006 for Amarcord by film scholars Peter Brunette and Frank Burke   The Secret Diary of "Amarcord," a 1974 behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the film   Deleted scene from Amarcord   Fellini's Homecoming, a documentary from 2006 on the relationship between the director and his hometown   Interview from 2006 with actor Magali Noël   Fellini's drawings of characters from the film   Presentation of Amarcord ephemera from the "Felliniana" archive of collector Don Young   U.S. theatrical trailer for Amarcord   Fellini racconta: Diary of a Film, a behind-the-scenes documentary from 1983   Fellini's TV, a 2003 Italian television documentary on Fellini's work in television advertising during the 1980s   Fellini racconta: Passeggiate nella memoria, an Italian television documentary produced in 2000 and featuring several interviews with a late-in-life Fellini looking back on his career   At Home with Federico Fellini, a 1987 interview with Federico Fellini on the importance of Franz Kafka's unfinished novel Amerika to Intervista   Audio interview from the early sixties with actor Marcello Mastroianni by film critic Gideon Bachmann   Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember, 193-minute documentary featuring the actor talking about his life as an actor   Deluxe packaging, including two lavishly illustrated books with hundreds of pages of content: notes on the films by scholar David Forgacs, essays by filmmakers Michael Almereyda, Kogonada, and Carol Morley; film critics Bilge Ebiri and Stephanie Zacharek; and novelist Colm Tóibín, and dozens of images spotlighting Don Young’s renowned collection of Fellini memorabilia