You get what you pay for with this bargain-priced but woefully skimpy reissue of Bernardo Bertolucci’s vivid masterwork. Another distributor, say Warners or Criterion, would likely have gone to town dissecting its depiction of fascism’s wages in 1930s Italy and Vittorio Storaro’s astonishing cinematography. But Paramount offers little in the way of extras — not even a commentary track or booklet essay — missing a chance to burnish its legacy as the ultimate home of the 1970s auteurs.
The main selling point of the disc is a four-minute scene excised for that U.S. run (thus the “extended edition” tag), though since restored for theatrical reissues. Filmed in a basement, it depicts a party celebrating the wedding of Marcello, the story’s titular protagonist. The host of the party is his blind fascist friend, Italo, and many of the guests are also blind. Although unable to appreciate their effect, Italo has hung brightly colored Japanese lanterns that lend the scene a garishly festive glow. The disc also has three short docus, totaling about 40 minutes, examining the film’s backstory and impact. But the only two speakers are Bertolucci and Storaro, interviewed separately. Both are articulate and engaging, revealing great tidbits like Brigitte Bardot having vied for the part played by the sublime Stefania Sandrelli, and Caravaggio paintings’ influence on the film’s look.
But why so few angles on such an enduring classic? Are none of the cast members still living? Could no one squeeze in a mention of the magnificent score by Oscar winner Georges Delerue? Some classic DVD titles answer questions before they even arise, making for an edifying sit. Sadly, that’s not the case here.