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3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman Blu-ray Review

3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman Blu-ray

“Stromboli,” “Europa ’51,” and “Journey To Italy” get the deluxe Criterion treatment.

Acclaimed director Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman were not only married for a brief period of time, but they also worked together. Thanks to the folks at Criterion, film fans can now see 3 of their collaborations (“Stromboli,” “Europa ’51,” and “Journey To Italy”) in a brand new box set loaded with extra features. So, what all is in this set you may ask? Let me break it down for you.

The first film in this set is “Stromboli.” Criterion has graciously included both the Italian language version and the English language version (which runs 6 minutes longer than the Italian language version). The story of this film involves a young Lithuanian refugee (Karin) who decides to marry an Italian fisherman Antonio in order to get out of the internment camp she was staying at. After their marriage takes place, Karin is whisked away to Antonio’s place of residence (an isolated island called Stromboli). Almost immediately, Karin is unhappy and uneasy in her new living place (it doesn’t help that the town is next to an active volcano). Karin feels lost, homesick, trapped, and, above all, like a stranger in a strange land. It’s a very moody post-war character piece that boasts a great performance by Ingrid Bergman (as per usual). “Stromboli” is, in my humble opinion, the most intriguing of the 3 films here.

Next up is “Europa ’51.” Once again, Criterion has included the English language version (known as “Europe ‘51”) and the Italian language version (which runs 9 minutes longer) of this particular film. The story of this film concerns a wealthy, busy mother and wife (Irene) who seems to have no time for her clearly depressed son. While hosting a party for her friends and family, Michel commits suicide and dies as a result from his injuries. From here on out, the distraught Irene vows to change and rethink her life. She opts to devote her time to helping sick and poor people. While this all seems very noble to most people, some people (including her own husband George) thinks she is going mad. As a result of her change in behavior, George winds up having Irene committed.

While “Europa ‘51” is undoubtedly a heartfelt character study crammed with timeless messages about atonement, politics, class, and religion, it’s not exactly subtle. The film is overly preachy and melodramatic in spots which hurts the overall film. Thankfully, the acting by Ingrid Bergman manages to sell the character (and the film for that matter). Bergman’s physical and mental character transformation is nothing short of astonishing. Without her, the film likely would not work.

The third and final film on this set is “Journey To Italy.” In this slow paced, mostly uneventful 1954 film, the story focuses on a rich married couple (Catherine and Alexander) working through marriage issues as they travel around Naples. While ‘Journey’ is a meaningful tale about love, death, marriage, culture, and history, I never felt any connection to these two characters. That’s not a knock on cast members Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders (who are both fine), it’s just a fault of the rather cold screenplay by Roberto Rossellini and Vitaliano Brancati.

Video/Audio:

All 3 films are presented in Black and White 1.37:1 1080p (although the Italian language edition of “Europa ‘51” is presented in 1.33:1).  ‘Journey’ has the most beautiful print here while the prints for ‘Europe’ amd ‘Europa’ differ greatly. ‘Europe’ looks far sharper than ‘Europa’ which suffers from scratches and wavy images. With that said, both transfers are solid enough. The 2 version of “Stromboli” also appear different. The English cut is a bit grainy and wavy (but acceptable) while the Italian cut look slightly crisper and clearer.

This set contains Uncompressed Mono tracks for all 3 films. While some film fans may prefer the Italian track for ‘Europa,’ I personally preferred the English track. The English only track for ‘Italy’ is a bit soft, but it’s mostly satisfactory. The English track for “Stromboli” is strangely garbled in spots while the Italian version is much stronger from an audio perspective.

Extras:
* A novel like softcover booklet featuring photographs, essays by critic/author Richard Brody, film professor Dina Iordanova, author/film professor Elena Dagrada, artist/teacher Fred Camper, film professor/author Paul Thomas, letters between Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, Roberto Rossellini talking about “Stromboli,” an interview between Eric Rohmer, Francois Truffaut and Roberto Rossellini, an interview with Rossellini by critics Adriano Apra and Maurizio Ponzi, and information about the 3 film restorations.
* Introductions to all 3 films by Roberto Rossellini.
* Adriana Apra- The film critic has 3 different segments in which he chats about “Journey To Italy,” “Europe ’51,” and “Stromboli” as well as the style and work of Roberto Rossellini.
* “Martin Scorsese”- The famed director passionately talks about Rossellini
* “Ingrid And Isabella Rossellini”- An interview with the twin daughters of Bergman and Rossellini.
* “Living And Departed”- A visual essay by author and film critic Tag Gallagher about Rossellini’s work.
* “Surprised By Death”- Another visual essay. This one is by film critic James Quandt as he chats about themes and comparisons between the 3 films in this set.
* “The Rossellinis On Capri“- A short documentary film that shows the Rossellini family venturing to Capri.
* A dry, dull and scripted commentary on “Journey To Italy” by Laura Mulvey
* “The Chicken”- A slight and playful Rossellini directed short starring Ingrid Bergman. The plot concerns Bergman’s roses being destroyed by, you guessed it, chickens.
* “My Dad Is 100 Years Old”- Isabella Rossellini stars in every role in this artsy short film tribute to her father Roberto Rossellini.
* An interview with Rossellini’s niece G. Fiorella Mariani. Criterion sure is thorough in including a TON of information about Rossellini.
* “Ingrid Bergman Remembered”- A touching 50 minute documentary about the life and career of one of the best actresses to ever grace the screen.
* “Rossellini Through His Own Eyes”- Another docu (this one clocks in at 60 minutes) about Rossellini’s work.
* “Elena Dagrada Version Comparison”- The Italian film scholar chats about the differences between “Europe ‘51” and “Europa ’51.”
* “Rossellini Under The Volcano”- Director Nino Bizzari returns to Stromboli, interviews cast and crew members, and talks about the production. Well worth watching for fans of “Stromboli.”

Overall Thoughts: These 3 films are far from being flawless works, but if you love Criterion, foreign cinema and or the works of Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, this impressive Blu-ray set will appeal to you.

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September 30, 2013 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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