I Clowns

 

I Clowns

[aka: The Clowns]

Written by Federico Fellini & Bernardo Zapponi

Produced Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI)

Directed by Federico Fellini

1970

 

Featuring:

Federico Fellini

Ricardo Billi

Tino Scotti

Fanfulla

Dante Maggio

Galliano Sbarra

Anita Ekberg

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI)

Video: Raro Video USA

 

Video:

Aspect Ratio: 1.30:1

Codec: MPEG-2

Bit Rate: 7.2 Mbps

Runtime: 92 minutes

Chapters: 19

Region: 0 / NTSC

 

Audio

Italian/French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

 

Subtitles

English & none

 

Extras:

• Un Agenzia Matriomonale - 1953 short film directed by Federico Fellini (16:35)
• Fellini's Circus - visual essay by Adriano Apra (42:18)
• 48-page booklet with notes and illustrations by Federico Fellini

 

Presentation:

Slim Digipak in slipcase with separate 50-page booklet

Release Date: March 1, 2011



Product Description:

The aptly named Raro Video is hitting AMerican shores this month beginning with a restored version of Fellini's The Clowns, one of the director's final masterpieces will arrive on DVD for the first time ever in the US on February 22. The DVD extras contain a rare and exclusive short film by Fellini, a video essay on the genesis of the film and a 48-page booklet with exclusive Fellini drawings. Hard-to-find, this 1970 film melds memoir and documentary into a circus of fiction and reality where Fellini delights in the role of ringmaster. The carnival-sounding score composed by Nino Rota, and an appearance by Anita Ekberg (star of Fellini's 1960's masterpiece La Dolce Vita), enhances the Fellini-esque experience.


               

 

The Movie: 7

Made for both Italian television and movie distribution (thus the open matte choice for the present edition) with the help of RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana. O.R.T.F. Bavaria Film & Compagnia Leone Cinematografica (especially the former), Fellini draws on one the first-person autobiographical method he had perfected in 8½ and would do so again in Amacord. 


That familiar caped schoolboy makes his appearance in the opening scene as we find him, waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of the raising of the big tent just outside his home, and soon in the audience as he enjoys the low humor of the many clowns and daring tiger-through-a-hoop-of-fire and knife throwing acts.  From here Fellini segues into his movie proper.  It is the director himself who appears, though never in a studied close-up, as the filmmaker who wants to revisit the world of clowns, as he remembers them, as they are today (in 1970) and through the reminiscences of retired clowns of yesteryear.


               


The names may mean little to us forty years later and thousands of miles to the left, but in Italy, they would have a special resonance: The Circus of Liana, Rinaldo & Nandino Orfei, Augusto, Captain Houcke, Charlie Rivel, The Fratillinis, Loriot, Bario and Rhum, with chapters devoted to classic white and sad clowns.  We can see clearly how the world of the circus makes its way into many a Fellini film - with the help, of course, of his alter-ego, the composer Nina Rota.  “I Clowns” is a special breed of documentary where his film crew are really actors, some of whom we recall from other Fellini films, and who also act parts in his documentary while some anonymous crew films them, as in a mirror with infinite regression - thus memory.


               

 

Image: 4

While we should be grateful to Raro Video for a watchable edition of Fellini’s movie, its pervasive increase in contrast and black level with its resultant black crush, is even more egregious than the completely unnecessary edge enhancement that makes crops up in many frames.  Faces have a pasty look suggestive of DNR - as further evidence, the image is surprisingly noise-free.  Color is nice.

 

Audio & Music: 4/8

As is usually the case for Fellini, the exaggerated high frequencies in the overdubbing and lack of attention to sync is so spectacular - and this time we can’t blame Cinecittà! - as to give us pause about how this man who was so careful about his compositions and choice of players could be so careless about the dialogue.  The big finale harkens back to the end of 8½, with its accompanying circus music so typical of Nina Rota and a nostalgic hymn foreshadowing his music for a Godfather yet to come.


               

 

Extras: 9

There are three extra features, all good, one of them brilliant.  “Un Agenzia Matriomonale” is the sixteen-minute segment of the 1953 movie “L’Amore in Citta” directed by Fellini.  Other segments (in a style predictive of “Paris je t’aime” and “New York, I Love You”) were handled by one soon to be famous director, Michelangelo Antonioni, and others who, for one reason or other have slipped into obscurity: Dino Risi, Alberto Lattuada, Carlo Lizzani, Francesco Maselli, and Cesare Zavattini. The “visual essay” by Adriano Apra, titled “Fellini's Circus,” examines how clowns and other circus motifs work their way into Fellini films.


Third, and most impressive, is a lovely, well-produced 48-page booklet with notes and illustrations by Federico Fellini, the bulk of the which comprises an essay titled “A Journey Into the Shadow - Reflections and Original Drawings on the Making of ‘The Clowns’ by Federico Fellini”.  It comes with a clever bookmark.


               

 

Recommendation: 7

To my knowledge, the Raro Video is the only DVD edition currently available in Region 1, and while there exists a DVD from Eagle Pictures in Italian PAL whose worth I cannot attest, the Raro, despite its less than satisfactory “restored” picture quality and so-so audio, is recommendable if for no other reason than for its accessibility to American audiences.  But above that is the accompanying booklet, beautifully rendered in color and good quality paper, that makes this release especially desirable.


               

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

March 5, 2011


 

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