DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Il Sorpasso, Blu-ray (1962/2014)

A great Italian road film which provided the impetus for Easy Rider.

Published on April 21, 2014

Il Sorpasso, Blu-ray (1962/2014)

Il Sorpasso, Blu-ray (1962/2014)

Cast: Vittorio Gassman, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Catherine Spaak
Director: Dino Risi
Studio: Janus Films/ The Criterion Collection 707 [4/29/14]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9, black & white 1080p HD (Blu-ray + 2 DVDs)
Audio: Italian PCM mono
Subtitles: English
Extras: Short intro by director Alexander Payne, New interviews with Ettore Scola & film scholar Remi Fournier Lanzoni, 2004 interview with Dino Risi, Intro by Trintignant for French TV broadcast of film, “A Beautiful Vacation” – 2006 documentary featuring interviews with Risi and his collaborators and friends, Excerpts from 2012 documentary that returns to the film’s beach scenes in Castiglioncello, Excerpts from “Speaking with Gassman” – 2005 documentary on Risi and Gassman, Theatrical trailer, Illustrated booklet with essays by critics Phillip Lopate and Antonio Monda, excerpts from Risi’s writings, and intro by critic Valerio Caprara
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: *****

This very Italian road comedy wasn’t distributed in the U.S. for many years, and that may be why I missed it. In its short American release it carried the title The Easy Life. It stars a most unlikely pair of guys: a vain, handsome free-wheeling bachelor con man, Bruno, who yet has a sympathetic side, and a shy law student, Roberto, whose phone he asks to use and who he takes on a mad two-day trip from Rome to the areas south of the city on the road.  It’s a most unpredictable journey which careers from slapstick to trenchant commentary on social mores, to tragedy at the end. Risi directed the original Italian film Scent of a Woman, and made over 50 films during his long career.  The film can be described as a holy grail of comedy Italian style, and remains fresh and exciting over half a century later.

Trintignant really looks his role of a moralistic prude who secretly desires liberation. We occasionally hear his voice-over commenting about how his new friend has taken advantage of him, always borrowing money, for example.  But later he says this has been the most enjoyable two days of his life. The flamboyant Bruno does some shocking things, but at center proves big-hearted. During their drive, they talk about film directors, and Bruno says he had a nice nap during an Antonioni film, but also says “He’s a great director.” During a visit to Roberto’s childhood haunts, he quickly uncovers and whispers to Roberto that, based on appearance, the son of his sainted great-aunt is not from the milquetoast uncle at the table, but from the farm’s overseer, who is also present. Bruno expresses constantly his preferences for the excitement of city life over rural, but he loves driving above everything. If you don’t look at any other of the extras, be sure to see the short introduction by filmmaker Payne at least.

—John Sunier




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