Roma Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
“That’s what’s nice about Rome,” says a patron early on. “It’s big and nobody knows you. You’re free to come and go as you please.”
This may be a fine description for the Eternal City, but it’s completely suiting for Federico Fellini’s ROMA. It comes and goes, moving from Fellini’s youth to the modern day. In the former, he (played here by Peter Gonzales, Liliana Cavani’s THE GUEST) arrives from Rimini carrying a suitcase and adapts to the community. In the latter, Fellini appears with the intent of shooting a documentary, of which the other portion has the feel of.
It is also, as the patron says, big. This isn’t in length (it runs two hours), but rather in the attempts to have so much occur. There is no true narrative here; instead, ROMA is comprised of sequences not meant to construct a linear plot, but to capture the essence of Rome through the eyes of its director. Additionally, we don’t really get to know any of the characters. There is Fellini, sure, but who are the others? What do they mean in the grand scheme?
This is a bit of a wonder, but also where the film’s shortcomings arise. There is just nothing much to latch on to and seldom seems fresh. There is certainly a lot of character, but that’s not unusual for the director’s work. There is a selection of marvelous moments (the fashion show, for example), but nothing nearly as mesmerizing as Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain in LA DOLCE VITA or the peacock in AMARCORD.
The versed audience knows that Fellini is in love with Rome. (He would die there in 1993 at the age of 73.) Hasn’t he, collectively in his works, portrayed this city in so much of its beauty and decadence? What, then, does this film contribute to that? What more should we be learning? It doesn’t seem like a whole lot, and the film doesn’t come off as a revelation as much as it does self-indulgent. ROMA, released in 1972, establishes elements of the autobiography, but so, too, do 8 ½, I VITELLONI and the aforementioned AMARCORD. (I VITELLONI and AMARCORD were released in 1971 and 1973, respectively, allowing them to serve as something of bookends.) And whereas those are stunning insights into the man and his time, ROMA is often a rambling depiction of a man in love with himself.
ROMA was released soon after Fellini entered his 50s, when so many men begin to reflect on what was and what is. As such, ROMA can work as a certain kind of picture, in which the filmmaker must take time to consider, at once, his past and his present. But, despite some flashy moments and an appearance by the maestro himself, the material herein is like an abridged Fellini—and that’s no way to experience him.
ROMA was selected as Italy’s submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, although it wasn’t nominated.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This digital transfer was created from a 2010 restoration performed in 2K resolution at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy, by the Cineteca di Bologna, the Cineteca Nazionale, and the Musco Nazionale del Cinema, from the 35 mm original camera negative.”
ROMA looks quite good here, although a certain audience may have desired a 4K transfer. Details are strong and colors are accurate, offering an overall nice presentation of Fellini’s film. Purists will be pleased to see the grain intact.
Audio: Italian Mono. Subtitles in English. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at L’Immagine Ritrovata from the 35 mm original soundtrack negative.”
The audio transfer offers an overall clean and balanced presentation.
Audio commentary featuring Frank Burke: Burke, author of Fellini’s Films, offers a thorough and highly enjoyable commentary in which he looks at the production, autobiographical aspects, structure, themes and more of ROMA.
Deleted Scenes (17:32): Collected here are 13 scenes from various reels.
Paolo Sorrentino (15:17): Filmmaker Sorrentino (THE GREAT BEAUTY, also in The Criterion Collection) discusses ROMA and its director with New York University film professor and critic Antonio Monda.
Valerio Magrelli (16:20): Monda again sits down, this time with poet Magrelli, who shares his thoughts on Fellini.
Felliniana (18:32) offers a wonderful collection of promotional materials and behind-the-scenes production photos.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is an essay by film scholar David Forgacs.