Director - Federico Fellini
Cast - Federico Fellini, Anita Ekberg
Country of Origin - Italy
Discs - 1
MSRP - $39.98
Distributor - Raro Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (3/5)
I have only seen a handful of the films of Federico Fellini, but have loved almost all of them. One of them (8 1/2) is on my list of favorite films of all-time, so whenever I have an opportunity to see another one of his films I immediately grasp at the opportunity, hence when the Blu-ray of I Clowns was announced I knew I had to see it.
I Clowns is considered by many fans and critics to be a minor work in the oeuvre of Fellini, and when stacked against such notable entries as La Strada, La Dolce Vita, and 8 1/2, it is a hard point to argue. However, seeing I Clowns for the first time I am struck not with the unimportance for the work in comparison to this other works, but how for the 2nd time in Fellini's career a film offers a transition from what has come before.
At the beginning of Fellini's career he was part of the neo-realist movement popular in Italy at the time, and then he did La Strada which signaled the beginning of his first transition into the more bombastic and surrealistic Fellini we would come to know through the late 50's and 60's, and would carry on through Satyricon, and then we have The Clowns. The Clowns begins a period of introspection for the again director where he begins to look back on his past, his loves, and his influences, and begins to incorporate them into his films. I believe this begins with The Clowns, and reaches it's epitome with 2 films later with what could be considered his final masterpiece Amarcord.
The Clowns begins with a young boy watching as a Circus tent is assembled in his backyard. Curiosity overtakes the boy, the boy enters the tent, and watches the spectacle inside, he is frightened by what he sees. This little boy will grow up to be the director Federico Fellini, and while he was once frightened, he is now obsessed.
The film which is a bit disorienting goes back and forth between the footage of the circus, which seems to have sort of non-linear narrative (it even ends with a funeral), and footage of Fellini putting together a documentary on aging Clowns. The documentary footage puts Fellini in the center of the film in a way that I've never seen in any of his films before, and offers Clowns it's only real narrative center, the material of the Clowns performing, however, carries the magic that Fellini films are truly known for. The fact is I Clowns while a good film is really of interest to hardcore film fans and Fellini completist. It's not a film I can imagine revisiting over his other many masterpieces, but is an interesting footnote in his vast filmography.
Raro Video has done an excellent job restoring Fellini's I Clowns for this Blu-ray release. I will admit to have never seen this film prior to this edition, so I have no appropriate point of comparison with other versions, but what is here is fantastic, however, I Clowns is a low budget (for Fellini) TV production, so there is a limit to what could be done with the material. That being said this is a truly glorious filmlike transfer, and if this a display of what Raro can do with Blu-ray as a medium, I say bring them on.
I Clowns is presented in the films original 1:33:1 aspect ratio in a 1080p transfer. There is a healthy level of grain over the proceedings. The colors most notably in the circus sequences pop, flesh tones are accurate, and black levels are deep. There are some minor soft moments throughout, but this is more due to the nature of the production, and less to do with Raro's transfer.
Raro has presented I Clowns with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix in Italian with Optional English subtitles. The track is more than suitable, the dialogue is audible and clear throughout the track. The music is bombastic as you would expect from a circus themed film, and is balanced well with the effects and dialogue.
Raro has presented I Clowns with a decent slate of extras, nothing overly substantial, but what's here is quite good. We have a 48 minute behind the scenes featurette called Fellini's Circus, and a 17 minute short film called "Un Agenzia Matrimoniale" that was part of 1953 anthology film. The most substantial and interesting extra is not on the disc itself, but is the nearly 50 page booklet that is included with the set entitled A Journey into the Shadows with writings from Fellini, script pages, and drawings. A truly remarkable addition to this set. Also, it comes with a I Clowns bookmark, which I am actually using.
Far from Fellini's greatest film I Clowns is a transitional work from one of the late 20th centuries most influential filmmakers. The restoration work from Raro is absolutely stunning, and for hardcore film fans and Fellini completist this disc is Recommended.