GREAT FILM, pristine transfer job—that's the Criterion Collection for you. The blacks and whites look wonderful in Fellini's 1963 autobiographical, self-reflexive profile of a blocked film director (Marcello Mastroianni, fabulous for the ages). Adding color to the subtitles would help them stand out more, and the menus aren't great, but those are quibbles. There are four interview segments on the two-disc set. Of Fellini's phantasmagoric Rome, director Terry Gilliam opines, "I suspect he was a documentary filmmaker."
Fellini's vision of late-'60s grotesquerie is demonstrated in a revealing 52-minute 1969 film made for NBC (!) in which he and a handheld crew romp around Rome, staging scenes and auditioning freakish extras. "A voyage in time" is how he describes his forthcoming Satyricon. This Director's Notebook is, of course, pure Fellini. (In one lovely, offhand moment, he reaches up to cover his bald spot from the cameras while descending a staircase.)
A collaborator for some 30 years, his composer Nino Rota is profiled in a so-so German-produced 48-minute documentary (with subtitles); the last 15 minutes concern Fellini. Director Lina Wertmller and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro add their comments, along with actress Sandra Milo (the voluptuous mistress Carla in 8 ). Two Italian film experts provide the actual commentary track to the feature.
There's also a 1968 letter worth quoting: "The cinema is still capable of sustaining disproportionate hopes, interests, and desires, unleashing them with a sort of madness whose observation is grotesque, pathetic, and outrageous." There you have it; that's Fellini.
WHAT ELSE is out or coming soon? If you loved him on TV, Michael Moore's second season of The Awful Truth debuts on DVD Jan. 29. Ghost World has drawn award- season attention and graced a few top-10 lists; it arrives Feb. 5. There's a special edition of 1993's Groundhog Day (Jan. 29), with extras including commentary by the director (but, alas, not Bill Murray). Rob Morrow stars in and directs Maze (Feb. 5), about an artist with Tourette's. The same date sees Funny Lady, Greenfingers, and Grateful Dawg. Budding scientists will appreciate Me & Isaac Newton (Jan. 22), which profiles seven heavyweight thinkers.