Blu-Ray Review- Satyricon (1969)

Satyricon-MOC

Fellini finished the ’60s with perhaps his own overall frustrating film Satyricon. It’s sometimes titled Fellini Satyricon due to a rival adaptation of the same source novel by Petronius coming out at the same which trademarked the title Satyricon. It’s divided critical opinion continuously since it’s release in 1969 some hailing it as a surrealistic masterpiece and some citing it as the turning point when Fellini’s indulgences get the better of him, I’m somewhere in the middle.

The film’s narrative is the major problem with film due its episodic nature but that’s due to the source novel. Fellini described his film as “a Science Fiction of the Past” and that’s a good way of looking at the film, it’s a surreal look at the depravity of Ancient Rome. The film follows Encolpio (Martin Potter) who looses his androgynous slave boy/lover Gitone (Max Born) after his argues with his old friend Ascilto (Hiram Keller) but Gitone chooses Ascilto over Encolpio. The rest of the film is a series of increasingly bizarre mythical adventures Encolpio goes on.

The film is designed to an inch of its life and it’s use of colour and composition is stupendous. It has imagery like most of Fellini’s films from La Dolca Vita onwards that will leave an undeniable mark in the subconscious for life. Fellini’s films always were overdubbed after the shoot, it was common place in Italian cinema for whatever reason.  Many of his greatest films are synched very well and you never notice. However in the case of Satyricon it’s seems deliberately out of synch to add to the outer worldly feel of the film and sometimes it works but more often just ends up distracting from the gorgeous imagery.

Fellini casted rather bland British actors in the main roles which works in the sense that look like the quintessential Roman idea of beauty, young men shaven oiled all over etc. You don’t however care one bit about the characters and Encolpio quest which takes you out of the film. The whole film is just an orgy of imagery over narrative and for the most part it works but due a  long running time, it’s over 2 hours and could easily lose a couple of the segments and would be a better film for it. The film at the time was shocking because of its depiction of homosexuality and pederasty (the main form of homosexuality in Ancient Rome) but it all seems quite tame 40 years on.

★★★1/2

Ian Schultz

Genre: Fantasy, Surrealism Distributor: Eureka Entertainment BD Release Date: 27th April 2015 (UK) Rating: 12 Director: Federico Fellini  Cast: Martin Potter, Max Born, Hiram Keller Buy:Satyricon (1969) [Masters of Cinema] (Blu-ray)