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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/11/99

1974 (1998) - F.C. Produzioni s.r.l/P.E.C.F. s.a.r.l. (Criterion)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Criterion's Amarcord Film Rating: A

Disc Rating (Video/Audio/Extras): A-, B+, B-

Specs and Features

127 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, dual-layer (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, restoration comparison demonstrating before and after shots, animated menu screens with music, scene access (40 chapters), languages: Italian & English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: English

When it comes to visual virtuosity, Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini is the grand master. In many ways, Fellini is the director every film student wants to be. Even when he's presenting surreal imagery, he layers in so much reality, that you often wonder if this man actually saw things this way. And it wasn't just his approach to film.

I don't think there's a film in his cannon, that reveals this ideal more than Amarcord. Amarcord was the Academy Award-wining Best Foreign Film of 1974. That's a huge honor in my book -- but even if it hadn't been honored, I still think it would be loved. Amarcord focuses on a fabled version of Fellini's own youth in fascist Italy. Fellini presents to us an utterly believable village of wierdos living in the town of Fellini's birth, a small provincial town named Rimini. The film is set in the 1930s - a time when fascism ruled, and people presented their thoughts with a whisper, for fear of "the walls having ears." The day-to-day lives of these wild caricatures are not sinister, perverted or evil -- some are really, really funny and some are pretty sad. All in all it presents people living day to day like anyone else. Granted, most of us don't get married by the giant flowery head of Mussolini, or drive imaginary race cars through town, but perhaps in Fellini's mind, he did. The story is structured in vignettes that sometimes cross, but sometimes don't. It's a simple, but complicated, story about life that needs to be seen to be fully understood, appreciated and enjoyed - so I'm not going to point out every little bit - you'll just have to find the film and see for yourself.

This DVD restores a severely damaged master print, preserving it for decades to come. Not only that, but it does its magic with a digital transfer that is dual-layered for a really nice picture. Colors are what Fellini was all about, and they look prime on this disc. The disc isn't 16x9, and yeah, that sucks -- but the 4:3 picture doesn't suffer one bit. The sound is nice, it's natural and warm -- not full blown stereo, but I like what I heard. It sounds nicer, and looks way nicer, than the theatrical prints that I have seen at Fellini retrospectives, and for me that's a huge plus. The disc isn't overflowing with extras, but I don't think it needs to be either. The extras that are included here, are a shot-by-shot comparison revealing just how damaged some aspects of this film were and how wonderful they look now, a theatrical trailer, and a nice animated menu screen that showcases some of the more memorable characters from the film. There's also readapted English subtitles, that make the film read a whole lot better -- many thanks to Criterion for that huge plus. Older fans of Amarcord will gain a new appreciation of the film with the new subtitles -- they're easier to read and make more sense too.

Criterion does another great service to film buffs with this disc. Although there are no real jaw dropping supplements on this DVD edition, we should all be happy to simply have this film in such beautiful condition. I know I am.

Todd Doogan
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