Color, 1990, 120 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by Federico Fellini
Starring Roberto Benigni, Paolo Villaggio, Nadia Ottavaini
Arrow Academy (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD), Opening (DVD) (France R2 PAL), Cecchi Gori (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL), Kinokuniya Shoten (Blu-ray & DVD) (Japan R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)
Despite his status as one of the all-time great world filmmakers, Federico Fellini found his films being treated with considerably less fanfare in the 1980s. Titles like Ginger and Fred and Intervista were given respectful nods, but they were hardly treated as the major events that much of his '60s and '70s output had enjoyed. However, even by those standards it was a little shocking when his last completed feature, The Voice of the Moon, was shown at Cannes but failed to find a single English-language distributor. Though reviewers at the festival were confused or dismissive, that still doesn't quite explain how this one plunged into obscurity for so long afterwards, especially with the presence of future double Oscar winner Roberto Benigni at the forefront. However, it's been given a second lease on life for English-speaking audiences with Arrow Academy issuing it simultaneously in the U.S. (as a Blu-ray and DVD combo release) and in the U.K. (Blu-ray only), which allows its merits to sparkle enough to make people realize what they've been missing.
First seen gazing into a well at night, recently discharged mental patient Ivo (Benigni) has a new purpose in life: to woo the beautiful Aldina (Ottavaini), who barely knows he's alive and seems to share a kinship of sorts in his mind with the moon. Also featuring a lunar obsession are the strange Micheluzzi brothers, who have determined that they can use a feat of engineering to bring the moon down to earth, even if the population doesn't seem to deserve it. Ivo finds himself weaving in and out of a bizarre, episodic menagerie of characters and settings including a flour beauty pageant and an over-the-top makeshift disco in the countryside.
Unmistakably Fellini from start to finish, this film belongs to his looser, more fragmented later style of filmmaking that really kicked into high gear with Satyricon and also included And the Ship Sails On, Amarcord, and Roma. Though it entailed the construction of an entire town, this film paints on a smaller, more intimate canvas than those films, with Benigni turning in a more subdued performance than usual (though he does get animated and uses his physical gifts on a few occasions). Composer Nicola Piovani does a good job of once again stepping into the shoes of the late Nino Rota, a duty he had also performed on Fellini's previous two films. The end result may be minor compared to the director's more esteemed output, but it certainly isn't worthy of the relative obscurity that has consumed it in most countries since its initial screenings.
The lack of an English-friendly home video release of this film has finally been rectified with the Arrow releases, sporting a fresh 2K restoration exclusive to the label that looks superb throughout and outclasses the prior (not English friendly) Japanese Blu-ray and various European DVD releases. The LPCM Italian mono track also sounds excellent (with optional English subtitles), and as usual for Fellini, the dialogue was created in post and often doesn't fit the characters' mouths. The major video extra is the 58m7s "Towards the Moon with Fellini," a vintage documentary on the film’s production, featuring interviews with Fellini, Benigni, Paolo Villagio and others covering the film's ambitious production including that aforementioned feat of construction and the challenge of shooting a film without a finished script, even though it was adapted from a novel. A "Felliana Archive" gallery covering the director's twilight career period is also included, while the first pressing of the release (featuring the usual reversible cover options including a new design by Peter Strain) also includes a liner notes essay by Pasquale Iannone.
Reviewed on December 3, 2017