Encolpius is a Roman student who begins by arguing with his friend Ascyltus over the affections of androgynous youth Giton. Ascyltus wins, whereupon Encolpius embarks upon an odyssey, partaking in a drunken orgy and being ... more »kidnapped by a bisexual sea captain and his concubine. Encolpius eventually rejoins Ascyltus to visit a suicidal Roman couple, join in a plot to kidnap a "sacred" hermaphrodite, and much more. Loosely based on the book "Satyricon" by Gaius Petronius, the "Arbiter of Elegance" in the court of Nero, Federico Fellini wrote and directed this tongue-in-cheek hymn to the "glories" of pagan times via a bizarre journey through the decadence and debauchery of Nero's Rome.« less
"*Fellini-Satyricon* was the Maestro's first movie in which his name appears as part of the title. It is also his first color masterpiece, and one of the most fascinating and origninal films of the 20th century. Every Fellini movie is unique. He had no peers. *Fellini-Satyricon*, however, is a cardinal enry in Fellini canon (not to mention the canon of Italian cinema) because it is the perfection of the new style announced in *8 1/2* and the innauguration of a new visual extravagance that would inform all of Fellini's subsequent films. The subject, 1st century Rome in all its florid, tumescent decadence, is lovingly transformed through Fellini's comic vision. The self-contained sequences, vignettes really, are not only fair translations into cinema of what is probably the first "novel" in Western literature, they also serve to reflect the fragmentary nature of the surviving evidence of antiquity. Scenes are fitted together like pieces in a puzzle where some of the picture is ultimately lost. This is emphasized by the visual references to broken frescoes, from which the characters seem to emerge and revert back into. The DVD provides a sparkling, lush, diamond-sharp transfer with a choice of English or Italian soundtracks and English, French, Spanish subtitles. A word about the dubbing: The English version is much better than the Italian version, for a number of reasons. 1) Fellini dubbed all his actors anyway because he used international casts. There is no such thing as a Fellini movie where the actors are actually speaking their lines in real time. For the most part, different actors were used for the dubbing. 2) The Italian actors used in the Italian dub are horribly miscast. There is just no way that those voices could come out of those people. Physically. The English actors are better. (If you watch their lips, you'll notice that Hiram Keller and Martin Potter are both speaking their parts in English). 3) You'll want to watch, not read, this film. 4) A good amount of the sound that comes out of the characters' mouths is either Latin, gibberish, or some admixture thereof, and, for the most part, what the characters are actually saying isn't all that important. There are sadly, no extra features on this DVD. A commentary by surviving cast members would have been so great. Nevertheless, this is a DVD that anyone who loves movies should want to own. Highest recommendation!!!"
Visually Stunning But Disjointed and Sterile
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 08/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If one rates a film on visuals alone, Fellini's SATYRICON would surely be completely off the scale: a phantasmagorical mixture of sensual beauty and the distasteful but evocative grotesque set in an ancient Rome that never was, never could have been, and yet which plays up to every extreme concept we secretly harbor about Roman decadence. The leading men are incredibly beautiful; the women are generally seductively depraved; and the broad vision that Fellini offers is easily one of the visually stunning creations ever put to film.And yet, oddly, the film is sterile. The story is impossible to describe, a series of largely unrelated events in the lives of two impossibly handsome youths (Martin Potter and Hiram Keller) who begin the film by battling over the sexual favors of a slave boy (Max Born) who alternately unites and divides them until all three find themselves sold into slavery and flung from adventure to adventure, most often with sexual (and frequently homosexual) connotations. Clearly, Fellini is making a statement about the triviality and emptiness of a life lived for physical pleasures alone. But the film is jumpy, disjointed, disconnected; the sequences do not always arise from each other in any consistent way, leaving viewers with a sort of "what the ..." reaction when the film unexpectedly shifts without explanation. In consequence, SATYRICON is ultimately less about any philosophical statement Fellini may have had in mind than it is about sheer pictorial splendor and deliberate weirdness.Whatever its failings, it is an astonishing film, and one that would have tremendous influence on a host of directors who followed in Fellini's wake--although all to often without his style and vision. Clearly Pasolini, director of such works as SALO, ARABIAN NIGHTS, and CANTERBURY TALES spent the better part of his largely unlamented life trying to out-Fellini Fellini; likewise, it is impossible to imagine how Tinto Brass and Bob Guccione arrived at the notorious CALIGULA without reference to Fellini's SATYRICON. Such efforts to expand on SATYRICON were merely more explicit and less interesting than the original, and I do not really recommend them--nor do I really recommend SATYRICON for any one other than Fellini fans, for with its oddly disjointed feel it is unlikely to please those raised on mainstream. Still, it is a powerful, remarkably beautiful, and completely unexpected film that must be seen at least once by any one with a serious interest in world cinema, and to those I recommend it without hesitation.--GFT (Amazon.com Reviewer)--"
Satire of the Satyr
Wendy C. Darling | Atlanta, GA United States | 03/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some movies you just have to see -- forget about plot synopses or snippets of dialogue, you just have to see it to understand. For these movies, there's no way to answer that most natural and inevitable of questions: What's it about? Satyricon is one of these movies. I've been a fan of Satyricon for about four years, when I first took it out of the public library. I'd heard it was weird and had also seem some stills in movie books like LIFE Goes to the Movies. Something about freaks, absurdity, ancient Rome, I gathered. Maybe that was actually as much as I needed to know since that's what it all boils down to, at its essence. I probably would have had more of an idea what to expect that first if I'd simply known about the director, Federico Fellini. At that time, I didn't, and so when I first sat down with Satyricon it struck me not just as an anomaly but as a major shock. Sure, I'd heard of Fellini, but this? This was Fellini? Why hadn't anyone told me? They should have shown this movie to me while I was in the crib, it was so cool. Later on, through watching another great and bizarre film of his, Roma, I figured out what some of the Fellini motifs were and how strongly his personality and taste come through, but at the time, it was a bit of a mind-blower. This guy had survived making this film? Nobody put him in an insane asylum? He was considered great? Certainly I thought he was great, watching the movie, but I tend not to give fellow humans that much credit. Knowing a bit more about Fellini at this point, I can say that while Satyricon isn't the anomaly I once thought -- Roma is pretty similar and I've heard other of his films also follow along in a similar style -- it is certainly in a class of its own. What's it about? Again, I can't say really, but pressed to the wall with a gun to my head, I'd squeal and saying it's a crazy experience, a vicarious exploration of insanity, of dreams, of an absurd adventure by a blond-haired poet who just wants to get his boy lover back and be done with it all. That summary doesn't really express any of it, but it's the best I can do and there it is. Perhaps giving a little background would help. First of all, Fellini didn't make the story up, although the film is certainly a product of his imagination and he did make up a few scenes. The plot, such as it is, springs from that most bizarre and unprecedented of ancient works, Satyricon by Petronius. Nobody actually knows much about the author and this is his only work, but what can be said is that it's a book very different from what most people would expect of an ancient book. You can actually get a hint of this by its very title, which is a pun on satyr (from the Greek saturos) and satire (from the Latin satira), meaning that it's an attack on human vice or folly and a depiction of some serious depravity. Did I mention that this was written around the time of the reign of Nero? Again, having read the original book -- had to having seen the movie -- I can say that it's nothing like any ancient work I've ever run into except possibly the poetry of Catullus, which is hysterically coarse at times. It's simply not ponderous. It doesn't dwell on gods or philosophy or sublime human comedy. No, instead, the book just creates its own territories and definitions. People have tried to analyze it -- the fragments that are left, now that several sections have been missing for ages -- and the general conclusion, so I've read, is that the novel, like the movie, is something far afield from the norm, a twisted tale of such originality as to make analysis within normal frames of reference irrelevant. The question resurfaces: What's it about? A few scenes may help to convey a sense of its atmosphere at least, if not the plot, since the plot is rather secondary. Picture this: Our hero (well, anti-hero really) Encolpio ends up on a mission to collect a hermaphroditic god(ess) from a hidden temple. He and his companions show up in a cave where they find the god(ess) pale and weak, lying in a pool surrounded by worshippers seeking to be healed. They steal the god(ess), throwing the deity into a cart and fleeing across the desert. Unfortunately the god(ess) is weak and needs water. The god(ess) dies and for that, there is a punishment. Encolpio and friends end up in another town (where he ends up in a battle with a man wearing a bull mask... don't ask) and although Encolpio is basically rewarded by getting to bed an insatiable woman, he is embarrassed before a crowd of hundreds when he can't get it up. He's been made impotent! To make things better, he's sent to a special treatment facility where he's put in a room filled with dozens of extremely exotic prostitutes who proceed to try just about everything to get a rise out of him. They pin him down and flog him. There's something about a giant swinging canopy with bevies of girls on it but even thought I've seen the film a half dozen times, I can't remember the specifics, nor do I remember if the "cure" was successful. It's besides the point. I do remember more, though. I know an Roman couple lives in home built into the base of a cliff. They end up committing suicide by slitting their wrists. Later Encolpio and friends run around inside their house and find an African slave girl who speaks in clicks and squawks. There's another big section with a huge ship on rough seas; they capture a giant creature that looks like an ancient depiction of a whale. There's a theater of the absurd, a gallery of freaks, a hysterically fake earthquake, a massively disgusting feast, and oh, it's all in dubbed Italian (at the time, the Italians dubbed over everything, even Italian) with the subtitles making some sense but not all that much since really you use your eyes to understand. Ah, why do I bother trying to explain? What does it add up to? What does it mean? What's it about? Go and see it -- that way you'll find out."
A film that transcends the limitations of storytelling
John Gallone | Seattle, Washington USA | 07/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Satyricon, by Le Maestro, Federico Fellini, is simply one of the most enthralling films ever produced. From the phantasmagorial depiction of Roman life, to our two hapless protagonists, Fellini spins a tale of deceit, duplicitous alliances and fascinating intrigues. The visual imagines are dazzling and the stunning plot arcs from bungled kidnapping and incredible travels to retribution and redemption. If you just don't 'get' this wonderful allegorical journey, do yourself a favor and watch it continually until you do. Satyricon is a perfect example of the powerful potential of film to transcend the limitations of story telling along with an incredible display of Fellini's marvelous and seemingly limitless imagination."
Petronius would have loved it
Timothy O. Riley | usa | 03/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Good ol' Gaius Petronius...If you want to read all about Nero's Rome, you can't beat "The Satyricon". Buy it on Amazon -- or something-- It's as overblown-funny as it is shockingly-disgusting and the author knows it...That is why it's a masterpiece that echos down through history. Now -- Fellini wants to film it circa 1970? Well, he (is) Italian...So, I guess he's got first dibs. My Review: Do not miss one of the great self indulgent classical trainwrecks in all cinema...Who cares if this film sux...It's a one of a kind treat. Gaius Petronius would have loved this surrealistic mess."