“Amarcord” won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
Having first seen the film more than ten years ago, the initial impression - of a tiresome, anecdotal satirical drama - has been supplanted by one of sheer delight; maybe it's a sign of maturity, or perhaps seeing the film letterboxed and remastered for DVD has starkly revealed Frederico Fellini's brilliance as an inventive director whose style and visual touches have influenced subsequent directors.
"Amarcord" essentially follows the bubbly highs, fiery arguments and occasional tragedies of a large extended family, although by the time the movie's over, we pretty much know every major and minor character in the seacoast town.
Criterion carefully remastered the film using digital restoration software, cleaning up speckles, scratches and ugly blotches that plagued the original digital master. Though the images are amazingly sharp, the trade-off lies in some visible, ongoing 'smoothening,' in which dark sequences flutter from black to grimy green. It's most evident in shots with large nighttime skies, and a few days sequences with dark shadows. The included restoration examples reveal the before and after, and it's obvious the original film print wasn't in great shape. (A sequence inside a cinema, between a lovesick teenager and his Ideal Woman, would have been far worse with the incessant speckles.)
Giuseppe Rotunno's cinematography is astonishing, evoking natural interior and exterior lighting, yet allowing some stylish colour combinations during winter, summer and fall seasons. Highlights include the film's final wedding banquet (with every object perfectly positioned near the horizon), and a 'Little Red Riding Hood' spoof, involving a boy, a wandering bull, and eerie, fog-enshrouded tree figurines that must have influenced Tim Burton as a teenager.
The mono soundtrack has been cleaned up nicely with the Cedar System, and Nino Rota's infectious theme will work its way into your subconscious, so don't even try to resist.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
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