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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Variety Lights - Criterion #081
Variety Lights - Criterion #081
Criterion // Unrated // January 1, 1999
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chris Hughes | posted January 1, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1. Audio Tracks: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono.) Subtitles: English.

The Movie:
Acclaimed Italian director Federico Fellini's 1950 debut film Variety Lights (Luci del varietà) is a light comedy co directed by Alberto Lattvada and staring Giulietta Masina. The story begins when a young beauty queen and aspiring actress (Carla Del Poggio as Liliana 'Lily' Antonelli) catches the eye of Checco Dal Monte (Peppino De Filippo.) Mr. Checco is the director of a small touring vaudeville company and he offers her a job with the troop. It isn't long before Checco falls in love with Lily and leaves the company to help her develop her career. Lily seems innocent at first but as the story progresses it becomes clear that she's really a self serving individual who will do almost anything for the fame she desires. Checco breaks up with his long time girl friend to be with Lily and attempts to form a new show around her. Will the nascent troop be a success or will Lily ditch Checco as soon as a better opportunity comes along?

Variety Lights bears many of the elements that would come to be known as Fellini's trade marks. The story revolves around 'little people' and focuses on their quirky characters, all the while pushing forward a strong emotional sub plot focusing on Checco's relationship with his long time girlfriend. The film is masterfully directed, beautifully composed and features fine performances by all the principal actors. Though this film has neither the depth nor the pronounced surreal elements of his later works it shows that even at an early stage in his career Fellini had a clear vision and unique visual vocabulary.

The Picture:
The source material for Variety Lights suffers from a number of minor flaws. The print exhibits pin holes, several instances of missing frames, bad splices and, from time to time, a thin vertical black line running through the frame. None of these problems are very pronounced though and they probably won't intrude on your enjoyment of the film. Criterion has done a nice job of cleaning things up even in light of the remaining problems. The transfer itself is very well done. There's a minimum of film grain, very fine shadow detail, clean pure whites and only a hint of digital edge enhancement.

The Sound:
I was pleasantly surprised by the audio track for Variety Lights. The mono recording has a broad dynamic range and sounds very clear. There is some crackle in the track but it's well down in the mix and only apparent if you listen for it carefully. The volume is very consistent throughout and the music, dialogue and incidental sounds are well defined.

The Extras:
Although Variety Lights almost begs for a special edition (given it's significance as Fellini's first film) Criterion presents it as a movie only edition. The only extra is a small printed booklet that offers information on the film's history and it's place in Fellini's canon.

Conclusion:
I really enjoyed Variety Lights and found its presentation on this release quite serviceable. It's a shame that no supplements were included but if you're a Fellini fan that fact shouldn't deter you from adding the disc to your collection. Rating: Recommended.

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