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Fellini Satyricon


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#1 Tim Partridge

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 01:13 PM

I was watching this again last night. It really is a jaw dropping feast, perhaps overwhelming at times. This is proper peak era filmmaking for me (late 60s to mid 70s). I think Guiseppe Rotunno's contributions are phenomenal, and the film is a masterpiece of lighting spaces. It helps that the spaces are the best you'll ever see, too (Danilo Donato designed the film). The mammoth stylization is to be applauded, and I'll take this over any of Fellini's real word grounded, earlier work.

The shot seen early on, of a giant statue head being pulled by horses is one of the greatest moments in cinema, for me.

www.imdb.com credits this film as an anamorphic production, but you can clearly see spherical lens flares in exterior scenes. Can anyone confirm the film's shooting format? As it's Italian I was wondering if it was Techniscope or Technirama (and there's no way it can be the former- I'll gladly eat hat if proven otherwise).

As an aside I just LOVE the matte painted red skies on the exterior shots.

Fellini on peak form.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 02:47 PM

I don't enjoy this movie on the same level, directorial, acting, or photography-wise, as much as I do "8 1/2" and "La Dolce Vita" -- but design-wise, "Satyricon" is amazing. But I find the film hard to get into as a viewer because the lead actors don't seem as compelling. But it's been a decade or so since I last attempted to watch this movie, I should give it another chance.

The Wiki page on Rotunno says this movie was shot in "Panavision", which usually meant anamorphic 35mm back then.

You wouldn't have anamorphic lens flares if a scene was shot on a Panavision anamorphic zoom lens, since the anamorphic element is at the rear. And it wouldn't surprise me if an Italian movie of that period used zoom lenses, even a scope one.
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#3 Tim Partridge

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 03:40 PM

Lots of zooms in Satyricon absolutely, but these were unsually very circular flares for an amamorphic zoom. It all looked a lot sharper than your typical anamorphic zoom film of the time (or even later).

I would rather watch SATYRICON, ROMA and CASSANOVA over 8 1/2 and LA DOLCE VITA, but I should probably check out the latter two again sometime. I think those earlier ones are very good films but I don't connect with them the same as Fellini's later more stylized work.
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#4 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 05:54 PM

The Wiki page on Rotunno says this movie was shot in "Panavision", which usually meant anamorphic 35mm back then.

You wouldn't have anamorphic lens flares if a scene was shot on a Panavision anamorphic zoom lens, since the anamorphic element is at the rear. And it wouldn't surprise me if an Italian movie of that period used zoom lenses, even a scope one.


I recall seeing production stills of 'Satyricon' which showed a Mitchell S35R w/ 50-500mm Panazoom,
mostly in the book about making the film.

here's the only still on the all knowing web I could find:

Posted Image

I don't think it really matters that the main characters are unappealing. Fellini referred to the film as science fiction & said he wanted to have looped in Latin by German actors. So the viewer could be regarded as an anthropologist/sight seer.

Tim: I'm not that fond of '8 1/2', but like 'La Dolce Vita' much better. That's in TotalScope. If there are any zooms in it, they'd be front anamorphs; angie 35-140 and panCinor 38.5-154.

TotalScope was set up by H.Chrosciski, Totalvision was its French sister company. I assume Chrosciski is the C in ATC later ECE rentals in Rome. Much later Chrosciski founde Technovision, which might have originally ben called Cosmovision.
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#5 Tim Partridge

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Posted 18 March 2009 - 06:09 PM

Thanks for that, Leo.

I have to say though, I think the photography of Satyricon is a knock out. Some of it, in it's most smoked up, long lensed and backlit, could pass as Ridley Scott on top form. Rotunno did great work. I LOVE that giant burned out sun on the Minotaur sequence, which looks like it might have just been an Arc lamp fired into the camera. That's bold bold stuff ala Storaro or Powell era Jack Cardiff. I really rate Rotunno and consider his work to be some of the best.

Not Fellini but I saw the Danilo designed Caligula going for £1 the other day, so I think that will be my weekend treat. ;)
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#6 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 02:05 PM

I have to say though, I think the photography of Satyricon is a knock out. Some of it, in it's most smoked up, long lensed and backlit, could pass as Ridley Scott on top form. Rotunno did great work. I LOVE that giant burned out sun on the Minotaur sequence, which looks like it might have just been an Arc lamp fired into the camera. That's bold bold stuff ala Storaro or Powell era Jack Cardiff. I really rate Rotunno and consider his work to be some of the best.


That is a good looking film. The colors seem too saturated for Ridley Scott, though.
I recall that the big mosaic was made of a squarish LifeSaver type of candy, Thus translucent which gives it a glowing.

'Toby Dammit', the Fellini-Rotunno episode of 'Spirits of the dead', is a real favorite.
The Rotunno's work with Visconti is great too. I particularly like 'White Nights' and Il Gattopardo.
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#7 Jason Debus

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 06:03 PM

Satyricon and Roma are my favorite color Fellini films. Like Tim said, both of them are a feast for the eyes.

I love how he frames the characters in Satyricon, it's very much like a painting. Sometimes just a small face in the bottom corner.

For those who haven't seen Satyricon there's a bunch of screenshots here:

http://moviescreensh...ricon-1969.html
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#8 Tim Partridge

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 07:19 PM

I agree about those compositions, Jason. I especially love it when Fellini will pan onto a new composition and you'll have the head of a random, static extra in tableau, sidelit in chiaroscuro soft light staring passed the camera.

That is a good looking film. The colors seem too saturated for Ridley Scott, though.


There are quite a few long end of the zoom shots heavily diffused by smoke and exterior sunset haze that make the colours quite muted and pastel. I'd put money on Ridley and Tony Scott having been influenced by this one too on release. There's quite a bit of superficial "Satyricon-light" in Gladiator, for instance.

I found Amacord on DVD for £3 today! Theft, methinks! I enjoyed that quite a bit last I saw it in 2007, hopefully it will hold up.
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