Release Date(s)1961 (January 30, 2018)
Studio(s)Galatea Film/Cinematografica RIRE/Tempo Film/Francinex/Cineriz (Arrow Academy)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: C+
Often quoted as saying that it was the film that he was most proud of making, Roberto Rossellini’s Viva L’Italia is a bit of old Hollywood historical recreation but through an Italian lens. Telling the story of General Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led what became known as the “Expedition of a Thousand” through Italy in 1860, defeating their enemies with his army and gaining ground in Sicily and Naples, it’s an amalgam of a character study and documentary with occasional bits of narration. A gorgeous piece of cinema due to the many Italian countryside vistas and pieces of architecture, it’s also an example of effective historical filmmaking.
A good description for the uninitiated (I was among them myself before this release) is that Viva L’Italia is like an Italian version of Lawrence of Arabia. We spend a great deal of time with Garibaldi and the soldiers who follow him from battle to battle, marching their way across Italy. During that time, we learn plenty about why he is still celebrated as a hero in Italy to this day. An unwaveringly devoted man, he inspired his soldiers with grand speeches about the importance of what they were doing and repeated his optimistic cries of patriotism, earning their undying loyalty. All of this is held together with a wonderful performance by Renzo Ricci, who has a marvelous screen presence. As their trek across the landscape continues, we see vast amounts of Italian scenery, showing us what a beautiful country Garibaldi and his men are fighting for.
Arrow Academy presents Viva L’Italia (and its English-language counterpart Garibaldi) via a brand new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. Detail is quite potent in close-ups and mid-shots with a fine layer of grain that’s never intrusive outside of scene transitions. Other than occasional debris in the film gate along the edges, it’s also quite clean and stable throughout. Soaking in bold hues, including potent greens, reds, and whites, but also sporadic blues, the color palette is rich and varied. Black levels are often deep while overall brightness and contrast is very pleasing. The audio is presented in Italian 2.0 mono LPCM and English 2.0 mono LPCM for Garibaldi, with optional English subtitles for both versions. While dialogue is discernable, sound effects and score have a narrow quality mixed with occasional distortion. It’s obvious that the audio couldn’t receive the same amount of care that the video did, although I’m sure it was attenuated to some degree. That said, it’s still a fine track, but it never really excels that much aurally. Extras include the aforementioned English-language version of the film Garibaldi, which is nearly 35 minutes shorter and outside of its content, identical restoration-wise. Also included is Viva Rossellini!, an interview with Ruggero Deodato, Rossellini’s assistant on the film; ”I Am Garbaldi”, a visual essay by Tag Gallagher, author of “The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini: His Life and Films”; and a 24-page insert booklet with the film essay “Footnotes in Time” by Michael Pattinson, as well as restoration details.
A classical piece of Italian cinema that only deep-diving film fans will appreciate, Arrow Academy’s presentation of Viva L’Italia is a fine tribute to Roberto Rossellini’s great effort. With a terrific presentation and some interesting supplements, it belongs in any world film fan’s home video collection.
- Tim Salmons