Satyricon, by Federico Fellini, is one of the most bizarre cinematic experiences ever committed to celluloid, in my view.
I first saw it at Keele Film Society back in the early 1990s. The brochure described it as being similar to Ai No Corrida (aka In The Realm Of The Senses), which is about as far removed as the description can get. Okay, so that one didn’t make a whole heap of sense either, but it was getting across the ‘sexy time’ aspect of it.
In fact, one of my friends got so fed up with it that he walked out partway through, and it remains the only film in which he’s ever done that. I used to think that I’d never switch a film off because it must have something to offer, and that the end must show a reason for it to have been made, but while I’ve not walked out of a cinema (the loss of money is the deciding factor there), I have since turned off a handful of films I’ve seen purely because they were just going absolutely nowhere, one ‘classic’ being Prizzi’s Honour and one far-from-a-classic being Paul WS Anderson’s 2011 version of The Three Musketeers (although I do enjoy some of his output).
IMDB describes it as “A series of disjointed mythical tales set in first century Rome”. I’d describe it, more, as a series of disjointed scenes, as there doesn’t seem to be any connection from one to the next and, nearly 25 years on from my first viewing, I’m still completely in the dark.
In fact, it should really be called “Thirty Two Short Films About Ancient Rome”.
I would give Fellini a slight benefit of the doubt for his sumptuous sets, but the whole thing just feels so damn tedious and doesn’t go anywhere at all, so I would then remove that benefit.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 Anamorphic Panavision widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and, for a film that’s just over 45 years old, the print is bloody fantastic. There’s occasionally a bit of grainyness on it, but that’s more for what was filmed at the time and no issues on Eureka’s part. Hence, if you’re a fan of this film – and there must be some! – you can rest assured that it looks as good as its oiled-up cast. For the record, I’m watching this on a 50″ Panasonic Plasma TV.
The audio is in mono, with language not only in the original Italian, but also dubbed into English. There’s also some Latin thrown in, too.
I must’ve seen it in the original language first time round, so put the dubbed version on this time. It doesn’t match up greatly with the subtitles, if ever. And there are some eloquent turns of phrase, such as when a dog-eared Cleopatra-like character, looking like Courtney Love after a really bad acid trip, says to leading man Encolpio (Martin Potter), “Screw yourself, shit-house!” Is this Shameless of yesteryear?!
The only extra is a trailer (2:24), cropped to 16:9… so it’ll make even less sense.
Subtitles are in English, and even though this release is intended for the UK market, a lot of people do want to know whether or not the subtitles are turnoffable, so they can watch the film in its original language, untainted by subtitles. And here, yes, you can.
Also, there are 16 chapters – this is better than the bog-standard 12 which most distributors use, but I feel one should come every five minutes on average. The menu is disappointing, though, as it features just a static and silent image of some of the cast.
Running time: 130 minutes
Cat no.: EKA70167
Released: April 27th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 1.0 DTS HD Master Audio (Mono)
Languages: Italian, Latin, English-dubbed
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Panavision)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Federico Fellini
Producer: Sergey Melkumov
Screenplay: Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi and Brunello Rondi (based on the book by Petronius)
Music: Tod Dockstader, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Nino Rota and Andrew Rudin
Encolpio: Martin Potter
Ascilto: Hiram Keller
Gitone: Max Born
Eumolpo: Salvo Randone
Trimalcione: Il Moro
Fortunata: Magali Noël
Lica: Alain Cuny
Scintilla: Danica la Loggia
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.