La Signora Senza Camelie comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray with a surprisingly decent 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It undoubtedly looks better here than it has ever done before, and is arguably stunning considering its age and budget, but there’s no denying that it is also a less-than perfect image. The most obvious defect I could find was an occasional but persistent loss in frames, which can been seen most clearly in tracking shots, that stutter a little bit as a result; but there was also some noticeable edge enhancement. Still, there were also plenty of things that I didn’t find with this rendition of a 50s black & white Italian film – scratches were non-existent, black crush wasn’t an issue at all, I didn’t spot any irritating aliasing, and the grain level appeared to be intact but not overbearing. As a result, despite the slight stuttering, it still marks one of the best black and white video transfers from this period that I have ever come across on the format (markedly better than Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, despite Criterion’s praiseworthy efforts there).
Technically, La Signora Senza Camelie’s original native-Italian-language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is surprisingly good, considering its age, a cleaned-up offering which presents the dominant dialogue crisply and coherently – without any screeching or distortion. The score is also exceptionally well-presented, resonating from the speakers with no particular depth or range, but also no top end issues. It’s a difficult track to criticise, but also a difficult one to critically evaluate, because the material isn’t exactly boisterous enough to get full impact from your system. Still, I did have some issues with the dubbing. I understand that, back in the day, on-set dialogue was simply not done, and so even native-language productions were ‘dubbed’ in post-prod, but La Signora Senza Camelie is a prime example of why this way of recording tracks was prone to considerable problems. The dialogue almost consistently looks out of synch and, with numerous characters speaking in Italian on-screen, distinguishing between them can also sometimes be difficult. It’s more a problem with the production than the rendition, hence why it doesn’t affect the score, but it is quite irritating at times. English subtitles? Well you’re going to spend most of the movie looking at that part of the screen, but thankfully they are largely accurate – only occasionally taking things a little too literally. See if you can figure out where this one went wrong: “The dolphin is going to be the next King.”
There are only a couple of extras, but they are still pretty good, and very effective, particularly for this kind of less well-known release. There are two offerings from film critic and teacher Gabe Klinger – a 10 minute video introduction, and a 9 minute reflection on Antonioni’s work – both of which offering discussion of Antonioni’s work as a whole, its place in the Italian film industry, and the movie’s themes and observations; and are extremely interesting, providing significant insight into the main feature. These short but excellent offerings certainly makes you yearn for a full-length audio commentary, and it’s only a shame that Klinger didn’t provide one. We also get a Theatrical Trailer and an accompanying booklet with translated critical pieces about the film and contributions from the late Antonioni himself.
Whether or not you actually like the contemplative, often drawn-out works of master auteur Michelangelo Antonioni, there’s no denying his talents, and they’re more than evident in this less well-known early feature. Driven by an excellent central performance from the captivating Lucia Bose, the story loosely adapts Alexandre Dumas’ son’s most famous literary work, La Dame aux Camelias (the basis for everything from Verdi’s La Traviata to Moulin Rouge), following a budding young starlet as she’s torn apart by the male-dominated Italian film industry. Symbolically expressive, poignant and resonant, it may not be accessible to everybody, but it is actually quite rewarding for those who give it a shot.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray Eureka have outdone themselves with an excellent video presentation, superb aural rendition, and a couple of quality extras which inform on some interesting background to both this movie, Antonioni’s work, and the Italian film industry at the time. Well worth checking out. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably find that La Signora Senza Camelie has simply never looked or sounded this good – or been treated with this much respect – and should already have this baby in your shopping cart. Those less familiar with Antonioni’s work may want to work their way in slowly – starting with something like Blowup, and progressing on towards L’Avventura – and getting a taste for what he’s about. If you like what you find, then I strongly recommend this, his third feature, it’s a surprisingly insightful, low-key production that won’t disappoint.
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