- City of Women (La città delle donne) dir. by Federico Fellini
This new DVD follows by over a decade the 2001 DVD produced by New Yorker Films for the American market and format, and while it was difficult to determine the difference in video quality between the two products without more information about the prints from which they were made (my suspicion is that the Eureka version comes from a remastered original print), the new English subtitles in the Eureka DVD are clearly more idiomatic and accurate in quality. The new video extras are also greatly improved. The New Yorker version offers a film entitled “Travelling with Fellini through the City of Women” and includes some rather tedious interviews with Peter Brunette, Paul Mazursky, and Emanuel Levy, who explicate the obvious. The new version offers several fascinating and far more revealing films: Behind the Scenes (Appunti sul film di Federico Fellini: “La Città delle donne”), a full hour-length work by director Ferruccio Castronuovo with English subtitles; A Dream of Women (Rêve de femmes), directed by Dominique Maillet (in French with English subtitles); Dante Ferretti: A Builder of Dreams (Dante Ferretti: un bâtisseur de rêves) (in Italian with English subtitles), a twenty-one minute interview directed by Emilie Voisin. Another briefer interview with Italian director Tinto Brass, An Interview with Film-Maker Tinto Brass, Friend of Fellini (Femmes, femmes: entretien avec le cinéaste Tinto Brass, ami di Fellini), adds little to the package. [End Page 619]
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The three excellent extras in the Eureka DVD are well worth the price of buying this new release in addition to that from New Yorker. Behind the Scenes gives the spectator a wonderfully accurate view of what Fellini’s work on the set was like, detailing in particular his famous method of directing extras by virtually playing every role in the film for them before the camera rolls. The film captures the festive atmosphere of every Fellini set but also some of the normal tensions, difficulties, and obstacles encountered by the maestro. It is particularly revealing of the artisanal aspect of Fellini’s cinema: there are no computer-generated images, but crew members shaking a fake train compartment to simulate motion while others roll a canvas past the train compartment windows to simulate the landscape outside; trees swaying in a storm are pushed back and forth by hand, and so forth. In some ways, we are transported back to another era in film production when we think of how what seems to be the default setting in Hollywood—the action film—is produced with huge expenditures for special effects and computerized images.
The interview with Fellini’s production designer, Dante Ferretti, reveals a great deal more about how Fellini created his particular brand of cinematic fantasy. A Dream of Women avoids a deadly academic approach to the film by interviews with producer Renzo Rossellini (the brother of the more famous Roberto); Dominique Delouche (Fellini’s assistant between 1955 and 1960); Italian director Carlo Lizzani; and Italian journalist and Fellini expert Aldo Tassone (Fellini’s friend and frequent interviewer over the course of several decades). A number of important topics emerge from their conversations: Lizzani (known for his leftist films) declares quite correctly that Fellini often responded importantly but never directly to social problems in Italy; Tassone convincingly rejects the idea that Fellini’s films were ever based on improvisation; Rossellini reveals that Ettore Manni’s death from an accidental shooting with his pistol was quite likely the result of his belief that the character he played—Katzone or “Big Cock”—reflected the most negative traits of his offensively chauvinistic personality all too effectively. In fact, according to Rossellini, Manni actually shot his penis off on purpose and bled to death, causing a crisis in the film’s production and necessitating the change of the film’s...