Clowns [Blu-ray] [Import]
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Fellini’s fascination with the circus and the surreal come to a head in one of his final masterpieces, The Clowns. The film reflects Fellini’s childhood obsession with clowns and begins with a young boy watching a circus set up from his bedroom window. Though comical and referred to as a “docu-comedy”, this film explores deeper human conditions such as authority, poverty, humility and arrogance, all of which manifest themselves through the characters of the clowns who vary from the local sex-crazed hobo, a midget nun, to a mutilated Mussolini disciple. Featuring Anita Ekberg, the star of his 1960’s masterpiece, La Dolce Vita and the director himself.
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The Product Description is misleading. It's not one of Fellini's "final masterpieces." It was done 20 years before his final film and is not a masterpiece, as Fellini himself describes in his essay, recounting the "carefree and laid-back attitude with which (he) approached it," "without thinking about it too much," approaching it with his "left hand." And it doesn't "feature" Anita Ekberg, she has a short cameo appearance in it.
The disc itself houses a pair of extras. The first is a short film that Fellini made for an anthology; it's a fictional take on marriage and comedy. The second is the more substantial of the two, a 42-minute "visual essay" on The Clowns that discusses its style and history while comparing it to other artifacts from the period (like archival photos of clowns). Finally, this release includes a long booklet with information from Fellini himself about the genesis of the project and how he envisioned it. In many ways fans of Fellini will appreciate this booklet and the "visual essay" more than the film itself.
The Clowns is a very minor entry into the director's canon, and it's hard to trust a "documentary" from a filmmaker as interested as Fellini is in blurring the line between fact and fiction. A rental is probably best for the curious before deciding to plunk down the cash for this release.
The Clowns is a fascinating peek into the mind of an internationally beloved filmmaker and his passion for clowns. Yes, that sounds a bit odd, and Fellini must have known he was making an oddity. Fans of the director should give the film (and especially the extras) at least a rental. Those who bought the previous DVD should seriously consider an upgrade for the improved audiovisual presentation of this disc.
-Full review at dvdverdict.com
The most compelling sequences in this picture are those in which Fellini re-creates his conception of the world of the clown in a circus environment, particularly the amazing, extravagant final scene, the "Clown Funeral", which vacillates between faux documentary and outright spectacle. There are a few sad visits to clowns in the twilight of their lives, but other than that atmosphere is quite upbeat. Fellini also examines characters from his hometown, "grotesques", who reminded him of the clowns he saw at the circus in his youth; the maestro reveals that as a boy, he found the clowns to be disturbing, as opposed to funny. Fellini compares the clown to man's "shadow side" (IE in one sequence where high-profile individuals are being qualified by Fellini as clowns, Sigmund Freud is classified as a "White Clown"; Carl Jung is qualified as an "Augusto"). At the end of the picture, perhaps to illustrate a symbolic reconciliation of opposites, the White Clown and the Augusto, both playing horns, leave the circus theatre together. A 42-minute documentary, included as supplemental material, deconstructs "The Clowns" from various technical perspectives; much of the supplemental documentary contains repeats of chapters from the main feature. A booklet is included with the DVD containing Fellini's essays about clowns and his drawings of various colleagues and concepts. Fellini is a great writer as well as a filmmaker, and thus I found this booklet to be educational, entertaining and informative.
Stephen C. Bird, Author of "Any Resemblance To A Coincidence Is Accidental"