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Monday, May 12, 2014

IL SORPASSO Criterion Blu-ray Review

Courtesy of The Criterion Collection
Criterion Blu-ray Review
1962, 105 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Dino Risi's Il Sorpasso has long been a classic in Italy, but for some reason, it never caught on in the United States.  Luckily Janus Films released it theatrically last year and The Criterion Collection took the time to restore it and release it in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack loaded with special features.  The film tells the story of Bruno (Vittorio Gassman), a man who wants to live the easy life, who befriends a student, Roberto (Jean-Louis Trintignant), and their spontaneous road trip throughout the Italian countryside.  With Criterion's 2K digital restoration, Il Sorpasso looks stunning - the black-and-white shines and the film looks as good as if it was shot yesterday.

Due to time constraints, I was unable to watch the special features on this disc, but can wholeheartedly recommend buying this edition for the film alone, since I believe it will connect with many viewers.  Alexander Payne recorded an excellent introduction to the film, saying that Il Sorpasso was a major influence on Sideways.  Il Sorpasso's influence on Sideways and Nebraska is very evident.  One scene in Il Sorpasso is nearly identical to one in Nebraska.

The artistic success of Il Sorpasso can be attributed to two things: Vittorio Gassman's performance and the humanity and complexity of the screenplay.  Gassman's Bruno is exciting, unpredictable, and out-of-control.  He seems to relish building this character throughout every scene until finally the illusion comes crashing down.  Trintignant is the perfect match for Gassman.  Roberto is quiet, calm, and responsible and Trintignant portrays Roberto with his usual outer calmness mixed with inner conflict.

The screenplay was written by Risi, Ettore Scola, and Ruggero Maccari.  There are so many memorable scenes in Il Sorpasso and they're memorable because they're observant and brilliantly directed by Risi.  Each scene has little moments that surprise or move because they're human and emotional.  Moments like these are what connected me to Il Sorpasso.

Overall, Il Sorpasso is an underseen movie that I hope gains a following in the U.S.  While its ending is too abrupt, the rest of the film flows beautifully.  Il Sorpasso is a film about the consequences of living the easy life.  One day or another, we have to mature, but for Bruno, life is too real to have to face.  I believe Payne fans or fans of films about relishing life should consider Il Sorpasso a must-buy or at least a must-see.


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