Orchestra Rehearsal: Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)Daimo Cinematografica/RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana/Albatros Filmproduktion/Gaumond Italia/Rai Com (Arrow Academy)
Studio(s)1978 (February 13, 2018)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
A metaphor for many things, including internal strife, dictatorship, the breakdown of society, and the loss of the arts, Federico Fellini’s Orchestra Rehearsal manages to put on a variety of different hats without completely anchoring to one specific idea. The basic structure involves a rift between an orchestra and its conductor, and the craziness that occurs thereafter. Originally released in 1978 in Italy under the title Prova d’orchestra, Fellini’s pastiche of real world politics, personal or otherwise, set against the backdrop of a group of people unwilling to follow their leader any longer is a complex opus with many layers.
The film opens with a copyist setting out the chairs, the music stands, and the music itself before the orchestra actually arrives. It’s the calm before the storm and it gives us a moment to take in the environment we’re going to be set within for the next 70 minutes. When the copyist is placing the music on the stands, a sheet of the music falls to floor and he goes back to pick it up, only to have another fall without him noticing. It’s a sign of the irrepressible chaos about to occur. Later on in the film, a giant metronome, which is symbolic of order, is initially worshipped and held high, but then later attacked and toppled, leading to a full-on fistfight between the musicians.
Orchestra Rehearsal also gives Fellini the opportunity for meta-commentary. A couple of the musicians make mention of “the director” at one point, even referencing 8 1/2. The highs and lows that occur throughout during the many interviews that the characters give to the camera and the constant arguments between them all are ultimately exhausting, keeping your mind in a constant state of comprehension. Needless to say, it’s a richly-realized work full of metaphorical references and open-ended ideas, all of which can be interpreted in many different ways.
Arrow Academy presents Orchestra Rehearsal utilizing a recent 2K restoration of the film from the original 35mm camera negative. A highly film-like presentation, grain levels are prevalent and even throughout and detail is high with excellent depth. Although the film was originally meant to be shown on TV, the widescreen image presents (to my eyes anyway) a finely-tuned and well-composed frame. Color is somewhat muted, but it looks to be by design as there are hardly any hues on display for the most part, other than simple earth tones. Black levels are deep and brightness and contrast are excellent as well. The image is stable throughout and there are no major leftover instances of film damage. It’s a lovely image and does the film justice. The audio is provided in Italian 2.0 mono LPCM with optional English subtitles. Not necessarily a flat presentation, the ambience of the rehearsal hall has definite dimension while the score is given plenty of fidelity. Dialogue exchanges range from well-recorded diatribes to the camera to various back-and-forth moments between characters. And no obvious deficiencies, such as hiss, crackle, or dropouts, are leftover.
The supplemental section includes Richard Dyer on Nino Rota and Orchestra Rehearsal, a 21-minute interview speaking about the film’s composer and his last collaboration with Fellini; Orchestrating Discord, a 23-minute visual essay on the film by Fellini biographer John Baxter; 30 images from the “Felliniana Collection”, including rare posters and press materials for the film; a 24-page insert booklet featuring the film essays “In a Nutshell” by Adrian Martin and “Orchestral Rehearsal: In the Picture” by Tony Mitchell, as well as restoration details.
Orchestra Rehearsal’s faux TV documentary style gave Fellini the chance to do something unorthodox, especially considering the format in which it was originally meant to be shown in before reaching the Cannes Film Festival. It’s an interesting film and one that requires much more analyzation than you might expect, which is part and parcel when it comes to Fellini. Arrow Academy’s presentation of the film offers a robust and healthy transfer with a decent set of extras to boot.
- Tim Salmons