Fellini Satyricon Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Martin Potter, Hiram Keller, Max Born
  • Director: Federico Fellini
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
  • Release Date: February 24, 2015
  • Run Time: 129 minutes

  •         Fellini Satyricon has the look of a spectacular box office failure, richly filled with extravagant visuals and an often incoherent storyline. Loosely based on the classic Roman satire written by Petronius during the reign of Nero, Fellini’s film is an episodic collection that plays up the infamous Roman excessiveness in decadence for visual splendor and disgust, in equal measure. Story becomes nearly insignificant compared to the film’s visual self-indulgence, though there are a series of characters we follow through much of the narrative.


            The film begins with a dispute over a young slave boy, who two men both want as their sexual pet. Encolpio (Martin Potter) believes himself to be in love with the feminine-looking slave boy, Giton (Max Born), though he has been sold to a theater company by the callous Ascilto (Hiram Keller). Ironically, even after Encolpio has freed Giton, he chooses to return to the company of Ascilto anyway. After an earthquake and a series of other events, these three are snatched up and sold into slavery, leading to a series of often disjointed adventures often laced with implications of homosexuality.


            The film often feels disconnected and incoherent due to the way we jump from one segment to the next, often without explanation or reason. This could very well have been a deliberate feeling thrust upon the audience as a way of capturing the essence of the text, which has portions missing and feels incomplete as a result. Whatever the reason, the result seems to emphasis ideas and themes over plot that could skip forward without reason or explanation at any point. The one thing that remains consistent is the lushness of the costumes and characters within the bleak or despair-filled settings.


            Though there are many questionable choices within Fellini Satyricon which make it difficult film to recommend for an evening of entertainment, there is also no denying the significance it has had on other filmmakers. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (The Decameron, Arabian Nights, The Canterbury Tales), Louis Malle’s Black Moon, and the Tinto Brass/Bob Guccione production of Caligula are all examples of films which would likely not exist without Fellini’s lush adventure into the world of Petronius’s satire. Though it was considered somewhat of a failure in 1969, the impact that the film had on other artists seems redemption enough.


            The Blu-ray special edition release features a new 4K digital restoration, supervised by director of photography Giuseppe Rotunno, along with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The special features include an audio commentary featuring an adaptation of Eileen Lanouette Hughes’s memoir “On the Set of Fellini Satyricon: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary, as well as Gideon Bachmann’s hour-long making-of documentary, a handful of new and archival interviews, and a new documentary on the film. Also included is a foldout insert, with an essay by film scholar Michael Wood on one side and a poster on the opposite.   


    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10

    Historical Significance:  8/10

    Special Features: 9.5/10



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