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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian
  • Theatrical trailer


20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 124 mins . M15+ . PAL


Fellini's Satyricon hasn't really aged at all since its first release back in 1968.

It was over-the-top indulgence on Fellini's part then; it still reeks of that indulgence. But this portrayal of the decadence of ancient Rome does have a strange fascination; we know this is classical trash, but it does become compulsive enough to stop us reaching for the remote.

Satyricon is based on the classical text of the same name by Gaius Petronius - very homo-erotic, an aspect which the film most definitely preserves. It's also very fragmentary. Lots of that ancient text has been lost - Fellini follows suit by stitching together a tale from fragments. In a very nice conceit, the film ends the same way as the original text - abruptly, in mid-sentence.

The film follows the progress of the Roman student Encolpius. He is arguing with his friend/lover Ascyltus over the affections of the boy they share, the strangely androgynous Giton. Giton chooses Ascyltus, and Encolpius decides to end it all. His suicide bid is halted by an earthquake; from then he embarks on a personal odyssey through Nero's Roman Empire. This odyssey is very much a walk on the wild side.

We move from a drunken orgy to seeing Encolpius kidnapped by a sex-mad slaver pirate who wants to become his 'wife'. Encolpius then kidnaps and inadvertently kills a hermaphroditic demi-god prophet, and is punished by becoming impotent.

He finally cures the impotence by having sex with a witch who is believed to have fire raging between her legs. These are just some of the fragments of this bizarre journey, which Fellini decorates with his usual eye for the strange, whether in scenery or people.

Fellini, who also wrote the screenplay, may have been indulgent, but he was never pompous. There is a lot of wit, and the bizarre touches are as surprising now as ever. Just don't expect a classical masterpiece - that's not Fellini's style. This is a B-grade movie which has been given the full A-grade budget and style - there's no intellectual stimulation here, but plenty of mild diversions and amusement.


Although the image hasn't been given the benefit of anamorphic enhancement, it is sharp and clear, without annoying artefacts. This is, in its scope, an epic movie - widescreen presentation on a conventional screen only hints at what Fellini is trying to achieve through his camera framing.


But even though image quality is satisfactory, the image is disrupted by contant use of Hearing Impaired subtitles. Take a look in 'details' at the list of subtitles offered. There are no English subtitles on offer, only English HI. Do they expect only deaf people would want to watch this movie? Do we really have to continually follow action cues such as 'man farts rhythmically', 'woman jabbers' and so forth?

Not only are the subtitles on in HI format, but they have been prepared by someone who seems to hate the English language. These seem to be aiming at a very literal translation of the spoken Italian. But they are presented with huge numbers of grammatical howlers, larded with plain nonsense. The production house should chat to the people at SBS to find how quality subtitles are prepared.


We have a choice of Italian, French, German or Spanish DD two-channel sound, which seems reasonable quality on each level; as good as could be presented given Fellini's pretty cavalier attitude to sound.

It's a shame there isn't an English dialogue track. I usually hate dubbed movies, but anything would be better than the abysmal English HI subtitles we're expected to use. Of course we all support the use of English HI subtitles. But these should be an option, not a compulsory choice.


The theatrical trailer begins with a very dramatic introduction to the movie, in a very heavy American accent. Fortunately, the dialogue is dropped in favour of a rapid montage of scenes from the movie. There's nothing spectacular here; it would have been more interesting to have seen the original Italian preview.


If you're a Fellini fan, think twice before renting this one - and definitely do not buy. The fact that we're not offered normal English subtitles strips a huge amount of pleasure from watching this movie. Does the DVD production house actually know what they're releasing, or is this a derisory cost-cutting measure?

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      And I quote...
    "Fellini's Satyricon takes us on a trashy romp through the decadence of Nero's Roman Empire. Could be a good romp except for the fact the film's in Italian and they've neglected to give us normal English subtitles. 'English HI' is not good enough!"
    - Anthony Clarke
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