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A troubled and neurotic Italian Countess betrays her entire country for a self-destructive love affair with an Austrian Lieutenant.
For more about Senso and the Senso Blu-ray release, see Senso Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on February 26, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Alida Valli, Farley Granger, Rina Morelli, Christian Marquand, Sergio Fantoni, Massimo Girotti
Director: Luchino Visconti
» See full cast & crew
Senso Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, February 26, 2011
Winner of Silver Ribbon Award for Best Cinematography, Luchino Visconti's "Senso" (1954) arrives on Bu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's alternative English-language version, "The Wanton Countess"; making of featurette; the documentary "Viva Verdi: Visconti and Opera"; an episode of the BBC program Sunday Night; and a visual essay featuring film scholar Peter Cowie. The disc also arrives with a 36-page illustrated booklet. Region-A "locked".
Venice, the Spring of 1866. The Italian and Prussian governments have forged a pact, and the war of liberation is inevitable. Austrian forces have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
During a performance of Verdi's Il Trovatore at La Fenice, Austrian officers and Italian patriots exchange harsh words. Marquis Roberto Ussoni (Massimo Girotti, La finestra di fronte), the most vocal of the Italians, challenges the handsome but arrogant Austrian Lt. Franz Mahler (Farley Granger, Small Town Girl) to a duel. The beautiful Countess Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli, The Third Man, Il Grido), who is related to Marquis Ussoni, immediately attempts to persuade Lt. Mahler to ignore the challenge.
Enormously impressed by Countess Serpieri's beauty, Lt. Mahler offers to escort her to her home. She reluctantly agrees - and the two spent the entire night walking the streets of Venice. At dawn, before they part ways, Lt. Mahler asks if Countess Serpieri would be willing to see him again.
Countess Serpieri falls madly in love with Lt. Mahler and the two begin a torrid affair. The more the war intensifies, however, the more difficult it becomes for them to secretly meet. Realizing that eventually her lover would be ordered to leave Venice, Countess Serpieri nearly loses her mind. In a desperate attempt to keep Lt. Mahler close to her, she gives him a large amount of money to bribe a doctor that would declare him unfit for duty.
Based on Camillo Boito's novella, Luchino Visconti's Senso tells two very different stories. The first is about a love affair between two people from the opposite sides of a dramatic conflict. Both realize that there is no future for it, but risk a lot to extend it as much as possible. A powerful sense of guilt later on forces them to turn against each other.
The second story is about the birth of a new country. There are only a few references to the dramatic events that are underway, but Visconti recreates perfectly the socio-political chaos that reigned during the Risorgimento. It is a strange environment in which enthusiasm and disillusionment are closely intertwined – on one hand Italian patriots unite and begin to believe that they could defeat the Austrian oppressors; on the other hand the Austrian soldiers begin to realize that they are fighting a war they cannot win.
Filmed in 3-strip Technicolor, Senso looks and feels like a giant opera (the film also opens with a prolonged opera scene). There are hardly any close-ups in the film, with the camera primarily observing the main protagonists from afar. Additionally, as it is the case with each film Visconti shot after Bellissima, the emphasis on period detail is often overwhelming (unsurprisingly, the film bankrupted Lux Films).
The camerawork is excellent. G.R. Aldo and Robert Krasker's lensing of beautiful Venice and Verona, in particular, is outstanding. The great Giuseppe Rotunno (working as a third cameraman), Francesco Rosi (assistant director) and Franco Zeffirelli (assistant director) were also part of Visconti's impressive crew.
Note: In 1955, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists awarded Senso Silver Ribbon for Best Cinematography (G.R. Aldo).
Senso Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Luchino Visconti's Senso arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Bu-ray disc:
"Working under the auspices of the Film Foundation, L'Immagine Ritrovata at the Cineteca di Bologna created this new digital restoration of Senso from the original 3-strip Technicolor camera negatives and the film's surviving master positives. The original 3-strip negatives had suffered extreme shrinkage and decay and, as a result, could no longer be properly aligned, a defect that had been impossible to fix when the film was previously restored by photochemical means. By scanning each of the three negatives separately on an ARRISCAN Film Scanner in 2K resolution and aligning the images digitally, the restorers were able to correct the registration problems that had plagued the film for decades. The resulting images were then color corrected in consultation with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno and Martin Scorsese. The key references for color correction were a 1954 positive print as well as a print created from a 2001 photochemical restoration. Finally, DaVinci's Revival system was used to improve frame steadiness, reduce flickering, and manually eliminate thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, and jitter.
Film restoration: Studio Canal, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia/Cineteca Nazionale, Cineteca di Bologna/L'Immagine Ritrovata. With funding provided by Gucci, the Film Foundation, and Comitato Italia 150.
Telecine colorist: Giandomenico Zeppa/L'Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna, Italy."
I am incredibly pleased with the presentation. Anyone who has seen the Cristaldi Film/Dolmen Home Video R2 Italian SDVD release of Senso would immediately be able to recognize the massive upgrade in quality Criterion's Blu-ray release represents. Considering the various inherited limitations, fine object detail is remarkably strong, clarity very pleasing (even during the problematic nighttime scenes), and contrast levels well balanced. The color-scheme is also dramatically improved - the various color pulsations present on the SDVD release have been effectively addressed, and with the exception of the execution scene at the end of the film, colors are also better balanced. Film grain is well resolved. Finally, there are no serious stability issues. I also did not see any problematic large cuts, damage marks, or stains to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Senso Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Italian LPCM 1.0 (with portions of German). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm positive print made from the original soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated workstation."
The restoration efforts have produced great results here as well - stability is restored and balance greatly improved. The dialog is crisp, clean, and easy to follow, and there are no audio dropouts to report in this review. The English translation is very good.
Senso Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Senso Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I must speculate that had it not been for director Martin Scorsese and the Film Foundation, this beautiful new restoration of Luchino Visconti's Senso more than likely would have not existed. Of course, Criterion deserve an enormous amount of credit for making it available on Blu-ray in North America. Senso has never ever before looked this good. Period. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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