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Director: Federico Fellini
Cast: Martin Potter, Hiram Keller, Max Born, Salvo Randone
Length: 130 min
Release Date: Feb 24, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Italian: LPCM 1.0
- New 4K digital restoration, supervised by director of photography Giuseppe Rotunno, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- Audio commentary featuring an adaptation of Eileen Lanouette Hughes’s memoir On the Set of “Fellini Satyricon”: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary
- Ciao, Federico!, Gideon Bachmann’s hour-long documentary shot on the set of Fellini Satyricon
- Archival interviews with director Federico Fellini
- New interview with Rotunno
- New documentary about Fellini’s adaptation of Petronius’s work, featuring interviews with classicists Luca Canali, a consultant on the film, and Joanna Paul
- New interview with photographer Mary Ellen Mark about her experiences on the set and her iconic photographs of Fellini and his film
- Felliniana, a presentation of Fellini Satyricon ephemera from the collection of Don Young
- An essay by film scholar Michael Wood
Those who are familiar with only Federico Fellini’s most famous works, such as La dolce vita (1960), La strada (1954), or 8 1/2 (1963), may not be prepared for what Fellini Satyricon (1969) has to offer. A defining characteristic many attribute to Fellini is his ability to blend fantasy and extravagant imagery with the elements of neorealism that marked his early films, which Professor John Springer has famously referred to as Fellini’s magic-neo-realism. Indeed, there are inklings of fantastic and surrealist tendencies in some of those other films, and 8 1/2 in particular. Fellini Satyricon, however, seems to be much more concerned with magic than with any pretense of realism.
Fellini Satyricon is loosely based on Gaius Petronius’s Satyricon written during the late first century CE. The film begins with a breakup between Encolpio (Martin Potter) and Ascilto (Hirm Keller), who argue about the ownership of a boy named Gitone (Max Born). After their tumultuous split, an earthquake destroys Encolpio’s home and sets in motion his subsequent movements. In his travels, Encolpio endures various traumas and encounters a bizarre series of odd, and grotesque, characters. He is eventually reunited with Ascilto and they subsequently kidnap a hermaphrodite demigod together. In short, this plan does not end well and the remainder of the film involves Encolpio trying to find a cure for the impotency inflicted upon him as punishment for allowing the demigod to die. Throughout these strange events the film draws parallels between the socio-cultural and political climate of the late 1960s and that of the Roman Empire during the tyrannical reign of Nero.As may be clear from Fellini Satyricon‘s insane story, the 60s influence is indeed quite strong. Right from the start viewers are invited along for a feverish LSD trip of an experience. The set and costume design, courtesy of Danilo Donati and Luigi Scaccianoce, evoke the source text, but the disorienting editing and lack of much narrative coherence, are more in tune with the 60s state of mind. The editing provides little spatial or temporal continuity, often resulting in the viewer losing track of where or when the action is taking place. In general the filmmakers appear to strive for an oneiric sense of confusion. Visually, however, the film is consistent with breathtaking cinematography throughout–props to Giuseppe Rotunno.
The linking of the Roman heritage and 1960s influences comes in several forms, with the most obvious being the diegetic world’s sex and gender politics. Fellini Satyricon is filled with androgynous characters, orgies, and a rather unconformable emphasis on the beauty of children. Whether or not the filmmakers are trying to make a point here or simply call attention to these tendencies is unclear.
More certain is the film’s commentary on the dangers of increasing commodification and a grotesquely indulgent ruling class. The desire for money and power is depicted as the path to death and ruin. There is a scene early on when Encolpio meets a poet named Eumolpo (Salvo Randone) who complains that the downfall of society is inevitable in a world where beauty is found in a pot of gold rather than in poetry and painting. A later banquet held by the merchant class is extravagant to the point of absurdity.Throughout the film the viewer is cued to take note of the level of excess on display. This cue, one might argue, extends beyond the world of the film as characters frequently glance at or directly address the viewer. There is a level of reflexivity that hints at an awareness on the part of Fellini and his fellow filmmakers. There appears to be an acknowledgement that this film is not meant to be taken too seriously, but rather enjoyed for the visual excess that it provides.
The new 4k restoration of Fellini Satyricon from the original camera negative, supervised by director of photography Guiseppe Rotunno, is as good as this film is ever likely to look. Detail, image depth, and color saturation are all greatly improved over any prior DVD release. Film grain is well resolved, and there are no signs of DNR tinkering or edge sharpening. In short, the new restoration of Fellini Satyricon is spectacular in every way.
The single Italian LPCM mono track was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack positive and sounds splendid. Judicious restoration was done to remove clicks, pops, hiss and other anomalies. The results are very well balanced, clear, and full of amplitude.
For extras, we are given a fascinating audio commentary, featuring an adaptation of journalist Eileen Lanouette Hughes’s memoir On the Set of “Fellini Satyricon”: A Behind-the-Scenes Diary. Fellini gave her complete access to the film set, right from the outset of filming, and she captured her unique experience in this highly informative memoir.
Next is Ciao, Federico!, Gideon Bachmann’s hour-long documentary shot on the set of Fellini Satyricon, which contains rare behind-the-scenes footage showing the filming of Fellini Satyricon, as well as interviews with Fellini himself.
Gideon Bachmann also conducts some additional audio interviews with Federico Fellini regarding the making of Fellini Satyricon. (11 minutes).
Next, we have a new interview with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno who speaks about his relationship with Fellini, and how they worked together. (8 minutes)
Included in this DVD is also a new documentary about Fellini’s adaptation of Petronius’s work, featuring interviews with classicists Luca Canali, a consultant on the film, and Joanna Paul. Canali describes working with Fellini as well as his impression of the director’s adaptation. (24 minutes).
We are also given another new interview with photographer Mary Ellen Mark about her experiences on the set and her iconic photographs of Fellini and his film Felliniana, a presentation of Fellini Satyricon ephemera from the collection of Don Young. (13 minutes).
Finally, we have a trailer and a written essay by film scholar Michael Wood.
Fellini Satyricon is like a fever-dream. It is often absurd, but constantly beautiful. The costume and set design are outstanding, and the use of vibrant colors manages to evoke both the source text and the flower-power color palette of the 1960s. The resulting fantasy world engages viewers and rarely lets go, provided that they are not too reliant upon being told a coherent story.