Most “Special Edition” DVD packages are just a cynical attempt to mine more money from a title that’s already a best-seller. But with a beautiful new digital transfer and a terrific new documentary, Criterion Collection’s two-disc “Amarcord” is bellissima, a real Fellini-phile feast.
In 1998, “Amarcord” was one of Criterion’s first DVD releases. With sharper details and more vivid colors, the spruced-up film looks much improved (with a five-minute short explaining the meticulous restoration). There are plenty of extras but unquestionably the centerpiece is “Fellini’s Homecoming,” a 45-minute docu produced by Issa Clubb that explores the filmmaker’s bittersweet relationship with his hometown.
The filmmaker left there in 1939 and only returned sporadically, though it figures significantly in many of his films. Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno says he was a “safety net” for Federico Fellini when they did pre-production on the 1973 “Amarcord” in Rimini: Fellini “was afraid of being re-absorbed by his past, that he would stay in Rimini and never return to Rome.”
Rimini loved him, but resented the fact that he never filmed there. Fellini preferred to re-create Rimini on the Cinecitta lot because, a childhood friend points out, he never liked “the vulgarity of reality.”
The docu — Antonio Monda did the interviews and served as consulting producer — features insightful comments covering a wide array of topics, including the contributions of co-scripter Tonino Guerro, the director’s work with actors and his attitude toward the industry.
Fellini was ambivalent about his Oscars, because he took no stock in awards but he was fascinated by Hollywood, and “in the end,” writer Tullio Kezich says, “he liked it.”
There is also a separate 15-minute interview with Magali Noel, who plays Gradisca, the town’s sexy glamourpuss in “Amarcord.” Still looking beautiful, and speaking in subtitled French, the actress tells affectionate and amusing anecdotes about the helmer and the film.
There are also audio interviews with Fellini’s family members and childhood pals; obsessive “Felliniana” (photos, posters, lobby cards, radio ads, etc.) and an audio commentary by film scholars.
Also fun are 15 drawings that Fellini did of various characters and sequences. It sounds like a static addition to a DVD, but the drawings from the onetime cartoonist are vibrant and evocative — as is the entire package.