Theorem (Teorema) (Blu-ray) (BFI)

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Theorem (Teorema) (Dual Format Edition)

BFI / Pier Paolo Pasolini / 1968 / Italy

Running Time: 98 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Original Aspect Ratio)

Image: Colour, and tinted black and white

Video: Disc 1: BD50 / 1080p High Definition / 24fps

Video: Disc 2: DVD9 / PAL

Audio: Disc 1: Italian LPCM Mono 2.0 Audio (48k/24-bit) / English LPCM Mono 2.0 Audio (48k/24-bit) Dubbed Track

Audio: Disc 2: Italian Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 Audio (320 kbps)

Language: Italian

Subtitles: Optional English

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“A handsome, enigmatic stranger (Terence Stamp) arrives at a bourgeois household in Milan and successively seduces each family member, not forgetting the maid. Then, as abruptly and mysteriously as he arrived, he departs, leaving the members of the household to make what sense they can of their lives in the void of his absence.”

After receiving a special prize at the 1968 Venice Film Festival from the International Catholic Film Office (where it also saw Laura Betti pick up the Volpi Cup for Best Actress), the sixth feature from the unconventional and highly controversial Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini was subsequently banned due to charges of obscenity from the Vatican, however later won acquittal on the grounds of it visionary quality and high artistic value.

Scarce in dialogue, yet both heavy in symbolism and visual imagery, and rich in complexity and political allegory, Pasolini’s dark and enigmatic 1968 mystery film ultimately proves one of his finest, most challenging and esoteric works. Although there are significant undertones of religion and divinity, Pasolini is to be highly commended for its vision and open, ambiguous nature which effectively drives the film away from a clear philosophical or religious argument, and leaves the piece open to an array of possible interpretations.

It is interesting to note the subtly with which Pasolini gently creates atmosphere, intensity and mystery as this mysterious central figure slowly works his subversive, seductive charms on the various members of the household, stripping each individual of their inhibitions, bestowing them with a brief, artificial sense of liberation and freedom from their conflicting demons and problems, before enigmatically moving on to his next ‘victim’ as it were.

In-keeping with the ambiguity of the piece, in the void of the visitor’s absence, the actions of a number of the central characters are never really fully explained in great depth, either psychologically or physiologically, from Silvana Mangano’s Lucia (the mother), who subsequently seeks sexual encounters with various young men, to Massimo Girotti’s Paolo (the father), who strips himself of all material possessions and strays naked into the barren, volcanic wilderness, which render a strange, hypnotic and surrealist tone to the piece and an effective overall air of poetic and lyrical intensity.

Terrence Stamp brings his usual charismatic charm and air of magnetic mystery to the cryptic figure known only as ‘The Visitor’ (although he disappears half way through the film), and there are fine performances all round from the International ensemble featuring Italian’s Silvana Mangano, Laura Betti, Massimo Girotti, Ninetto Davoli and Andrés José Cruz Soublette, and the German-born, French actress Anne Wiazemsky (best known for her collaborations with Jean-Luc Godard, to whom she was married between the years of 1967 and 1979).

Another beguiling and visually arresting work from Pasolini, enhanced courtesy of the sumptuous and deep cinematography of Giuseppe Ruzzolini.

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In terms of overall picture quality, although the film has been mastered in High Definition from an original 35mm interpositive held by Channel 4, using HD-DVNR and MTI restoration tools to remove instances of negative sparkle, severe scratching and other damage such as tearing and bad splices, the results ultimately prove a fairly mixed bag, although undoubtedly present significant upgrades on previous editions of the film.

Though colours and hues can often appear strong and well-saturated, most notably in the rich blues, reds and yellows of the jumpers and paints, and the lush greens and golds of the rural, Italian vistas, the varied colour palette has an overall faded, washed appearance, which, although well suited to the distant, enigmatic quality of the piece, does slightly detract from the luscious vibrancy of the film. Although there is a pleasing amount of fine detail to be seen, and considerable texture and depth to the image, definition is never razor sharp, and there are some issues with softness and blurring. There is also a significant amount of heavy grain present throughout the feature which may prove slightly too heavy for some, but it does retain a natural and authentic feel to the piece, which thankfully has not been eliminated by DNR and filtering. Aside from some minor signs of speckling and age related scratching, and some mild telecine wobble noticeable in a few scenes, this is ultimately a clean, strong and very pleasing blu-ray presentation.

The original Italian LPCM Mono 2.0 Audio mix is very impressive, and though there is some minor hiss audible, delivers good, clear, well-modulated dialogue and a strong presentation of the suitably recondite orchestral soundtrack, which effectively fuses an original score from the great Ennio Morricone, with classical works from Mozart and various other composers.

The presentation also offers the option of an alternative LPCM Mono 2.0 English language audio soundtrack, which may be preferable to some, but in all honesty I would give it a miss, as it does sound fairly quiet and weak, and when played alongside the subtitles, it does manipulate and alter a lot of the dialogue, and lose the authentic quality of the piece.

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Special Features:

Presented in both High Definition and Standard Definition

Optional alternative English language soundtrack

Audio commentary by Italian film expert Robert Gordon

An Interview with Terence Stamp (2007, 34 mins, DVD only)

2013 theatrical release trailer

Fully illustrated booklet with essay by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, review by Philip Strick and biographies of Pasolini and Stamp

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Overall:

Though much more subtle and very different in tone from the majority of his other works, and ultimately quite a challenging and though-provoking piece, Pasolini’s enigmatic mystery film proves an intelligent, complex and alluring visual treat, which consistently challenges the viewer with it’s complex combination of political allegory, cryptic narrative and an examination of family dynamics, class and the nature of sexuality.

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Release Date: 27 May, 2013

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