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I Vitelloni

Image // Unrated // August 30, 2005
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted September 19, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Film:
Considered one of Federico Fellini's true masterpieces I Vitelloni tells the story of a group of young men living in a provincial coastal town somewhere in Italy. Unemployed, often without any money but full of dreams we follow Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi), Alberto (Alberto Sordi), Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste), and Riccardo (Riccardo Fellini) through their daily struggles to find a meaning for their spinning out of control lives. But how can these young men who still live at home with their mothers outgrow the small town mentality they carry in their hearts? Fausto, the leader of the group, has just gotten in trouble for getting a girl from a notable family pregnant, Leopoldo, an aspiring young writer who has never ending arguments with his mother is slowly but surely getting tired from the village he is a part of, and Moraldo the voice of reason among all the other men is also growing more and more weary of the monotonous life the tiny village has to offer.

Preceding the Maestro's grandiose La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 ½ (1963), and La Strada (1954), the films that made Federico Fellini one of the icons in Italian Neo-Realism, I Vitelloni's is a near-documentary feature partially based on recollections from his youthful years in Rimini, Italy. Filled with poetic imagery and the long continuous camera shots that made Fellini such a renowned name I Vitelloni is very much a character study of five men and their struggles within the dated environment of their provincial town. As much as I Vitelloni is a poetic film where emotions often run rampant the film is also very much a sober look at Italy and the social problems the country faced in the early 1950s. The dilapidated poorly lit streets, the wrinkled faces of working men, even the somewhat surreal ocean line very much create a believable portrait of a society in transition.

By all means however I Vitelloni is an amazingly looking aesthetic film. Its almost uncanny depth in terms of composition and narrative structure place the film among Fellini's best. Under the façade of a story that many might perceive as a simple tale of friendship Fellini delivers a realistic social analysis of Italy unlike you will see in any of his later pictures. The quiet and peaceful environment where the young men live is indeed the perfect setting for the underlying social overtones Fellini will later on regularly sneak in his films.

What separates I Vitelloni from everything else the Maestro had filmed prior to its release in 1953 is the strikingly mature approach of a director that has captured the essence of a certainly uneasy era from Italy's political and social life. Even nowadays I Vitelloni hardly feels like a dated film. The characters and the intimate manner in which their struggles are portrayed, the subtle framing of the narrative, even the laughable jokes that are often told by the friends are a true testament for the talent of a director that knew how to film what he wanted to express and more importantly was able to convey the spirit of the times he was a part of.

How Does the Disc Look? Quite frankly I am quite a bit surprised to find out that Image were planning their own release of I Vitelloni as de facto Criterion delivered a very pleasing presentation of the very same films less than a year ago. But regardless of my surprise here it is, the Image version, offered with a very attractive price and with a very good looking cover work. So how does the actual print look like? Well, those of you with the Criterion discs already in your collections…I think that you own the better one of the two versions. It certainly looks like the beautifully restored Criterion image is…found only in the Criterion disc. The Image presentation is quite different and while not a total disaster it is inferior to the restoration work Criterion have performed. The picture quality of the Image release often exhibits a light degree of print damage, contrast is a bit too strong, and blacks are not as convincing as they should be. The biggest problem that I have with the Image presentation is the fact that the image is very unstable. Often times when there is a switch from one scene to another the image simply "jumps out"-a rather common occurrence with older films that have not undergone digital restoration. While there are some improvements being made on this release this specific issue was very distracting for me and I am sure will upset plenty of other viewers as well. With this said, I believe that if you wish to own the film in its definitive version/image presentation (for now) you should certainly look into the Criterion disc. I Vitelloni is presented in its OAR of 1.33:1 (Black/White).

How Does the DVD Sound? The original Italian Dolby Digital Mono track is offered here with optional English subtitles. This is certainly an acceptable presentation that would meet the basic requirements for such a dated film.

Extras: The only extra piece of footage on this release is the Production Still Gallery which in my opinion is just fine if you consider this to be a "budget" release. But why would you go for this disc when the Criterion disc is only a few dollars extra.

Final Thoughts: Unlike many DVD collectors out there that see multiple releases of the same film by a different company as a waste of time I have to disagree and point out that I am actually a very strong supporter of such practice. You never know when a company might deliver a superior print of a certain film to what you think is the definitive one. In fact, look at another Fellini film that was released in the United Kingdom recently- Juliet of the Spirits-everyone thought that the Criterion version was the definitive one. Yet UK-based Nouveaux Pictures delivered a print that in my humble opinion leaves the Criterion release way behind in nearly every department-audio, video presentation, etc. With this said the current release of I Vitelloni delivered by Image is certainly not in the same category with Criterion. RENT IT (the disc, the film is worth owning!!).

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