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Il Bidone [DVD] (1955)

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Broderick Crawford, Richard Basehart, Giulietta Masina, Franco Fabrizi, Riccardo Garrone
  • Directors: Federico Fellini
  • Format: PAL, Subtitled, Black & White, Full Screen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Bfi
  • DVD Release Date: 29 Aug. 2005
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000A5RLEI
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,641 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Classic drama directed by Federico Fellini. A trio of crooks and con men, Augusto (Broderick Crawford), Picasso (Richard Basehart) and Roberto (Franco Fabrizi), make a living from playing elaborate tricks on the poor and the credulous. Their hard-hearted lifestyle is challenged however, when Augusto is unexpectedly reunited with his estranged daughter, and when Picasso is faced with his loving wife's impatience.

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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I think this film along with La Strada is one of Fellini's best films and probably one of the best films of all time. At this point cinema had momentarily acquired a spiritual dimension which the Neorealist Marxist film makers did not understand and disliked. There is a revealing and interesting extra on this Blu-ray, an interview with 2nd assistant director Dominique Delouche where he describes how the neorealist editor Mario Serandrei had cut out some scenes (which I think should have been kept) and he wanted to change the ending of the film which in my opinion would have ruined it and would have been really a crime.
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Though I'd seen Il Bidone many years ago on TV, I didn't realise it was a Fellini film until the internet joined the dots between film titles and synopsises. I always did remember its starkness, its raw beauty and its redemptive narrative - and at last I bought the DVD and was reunited with this minor classic.

This is where the re-watch proved its worth - the multi-layers of post- war Italian society; its Catholicism fighting at odds with poverty and corruption. The characters interweave their human stories to take us on various personal journeys. Fellini's attempt to include American actors as the male leads, dubbed, fooled me - the oft drawling Broderick Crawford seemed perfect as the guilt-weary protagonist (aka The Swindler) who in actuality was often drunk on set.

For me, the audacious nature of the Swindlers in action, abusing the Catholic position of power by posing as high clergy and conning penniless peasants was bold; certainly for its time. Re-watching brought the trademark Fellini wild party in full swing - as wild and spirited as any he's staged - all rather sickened and over-the-top; portrayed as being funded by immoral, criminal money and in total pursuit of power and hedonism. The ending is one of those that etches itself into your psyche, both haunting and provocative.

However, unlike most 'popular' Fellini films, the leads aren't that likable and one doesn't rally with them in the way of, say, Cabiria or La Strada. That maybe explains why this Fellini isn't generally known, or loved. It's actually rather closer to La Dolce Vita in tone and could be seen as a precursor to that classic.

Il Bidone isn't the easiest film to watch and has its faults; a jarring narrative and inconsistencies that one accepts from amateur crowds on location.
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Fellini's "neo-realist" early days are impregnated with marginalised characters who are vulnerable to exploitation, acts of violence and abuse. The victims portrayed in Il Bidone include peasants, a crippled girl, the urban poor and an elderly petrol station attendant. The villains are a group of conmen who will stoop to the lowest level of depravity to rob these unfortunate individuals of all their cash. The methods they employ pray on the deepest yearnings and subservience of the rural and urban poor such as their trust in Church officials, people of authority or the seemingly wealthy. There is much said about post -war Italy in this film. Fellini captures the social deprivation of the time such as the overpopulated shanty town or the ramshackle farm. There are moments of opulence, which, interestingly, are displayed by a criminal who made it. As a whole the film uses the character of the middle aged Augusto to symbolise failure steeped in a shameful life. The consequences of Augusto's criminality are dire such as the time he takes his 18 year old daughter (he randomly meets after over a year) to the cinema. Fellini handles this scene superbly through the use of music, sound and tension, culminating in the worst possible worst case scenarios. At times I felt sorry for Augusto; he is ultimately a very sad and lonely man. For me this was one of Fellini's most moving films and the last sequence involving Augusto's tried and tested Monseigneur routine on a desperately poor and unfortunate family leads to a sequence of events that are some of the best in cinema. The whole "did he or didn't he take the cash" suspense was awesome. This BFI edition is crystal clear and the soundtrack does justice to Nino Rota's score but Fellini's preference for dubbing always irritates me albeit a trivial and minor quibble.
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I've been searching for this dvd for years as it was deleted a few years ago = only Amazon had a copy
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x900df990) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90347528) out of 5 stars A.K.A. The Swindle - Overlooked Minor Fellini Classic 10 Jan. 2001
By Christopher J. Jarmick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Il Bidone aka The Swindle is one of Fellini's least known films and part of his trilogy of loneliness (La Strada and Nights of Cabiria) Nights. .. recently received a complete restoration, limited theatrical release and Criterion DVD release. Il Bidone is available on DVD now, but without a single solitary extra. It's still worth getting though.
I recently revisted Il Bidone (The Swindle) and was mesmerized by it's restrained style, story, and acting. I had forgotten how Fellini had somehow managed to get a superb performance out of Broderick Crawford (who's raging alcoholism in real life caused Fellini to have to make script changes during it's filming -changes Fellini later believed helped the over-all film).
The film begins by introducing us to it's main trio of con men. They perform a masterful swindle where they dress up as priests, to swindle hardworking peasants and farmers. I won't spoil the mechanics of the con, since it's fascinating to watch it unfold and ponder how it will work.
We meet the three con men who work for 'The Baron Vargas'. Carlo ( nicknamed Picasso) played by a very youthful Richard Basehart, is a frustrated painter who cons to support his family and loves his wife deeply. Roberto (Franco Fabrizzi)is a devil-may-care hedonist who's addicted to the fast life-style but believes he will somehow leave it behind before he winds up like. . . Augusto. At 48, Augusto (Broderick Crawford) is constantly reminded of his age, how lonely the life of a con man truly is and how the life is taking its toll on him. He feels trapped by the con life and much older than his 48 years. A chance meeting with his estranged daughter re-awakens the love and compassion he has within him and allows him to re-capture the spark and energy of his former self as it gives him an unselfish goal and purpose he can care about.
It's a remarkable transition, not just within the character Augusto, but for the film itself. Augusto is re-discovering the love and compassion which is inside even a burnt out con man, like he imagines he truly is. But the film is not one to give in to sentimentality or false hope or manipulations. It's a tragic film. Augusto does not suddenly change into a different human being. He knows what he is and to leave it completely behind would be to sacrifice part of himself for someone else. He is too selfish for that and too set in his ways. It forces him through a series of complication to work with con-men who are not ones that look up to him or respect him, but scavengers who can not be trusted. And it will prove his undoing.
Fellini plants the seed early that Augusto is not having fun putting one over on the peasants and farmers and gas station attendants that he once must have. He is burnt-out. He has started to think too much about how the money they con out of these people will hurt them. It's as dull a job to Augusto as any other, except that it pays far better than most jobs and is all that Augusto knows. He is trapped in a prison and has begun to realize it, all too clearly. This life is a lonely one and loneliness is a prison as confining as the one that comes with bars. If one does choose a lonely life, one can not have compassion or guilt.
In contrast we see Roberto getting a positive adrenaline rush from pulling off a con successfully. It's the drug that makes him high. He still enjoys the life. He still pursues the fast women, enjoys the night life, and wants to have as much fun as he can. . He believes once it stops being fun he will stop before he becomes old and stuck in the lonely life like Augusto is. But later we will see how addicted Roberto has become to his rush and we know he is a more reckless, younger version of Augusto and is doomed.
Carlo is a lot like Augusto. He's eager to learn everything he can from Augusto. He is more careful, more disciplined and wants to learn the skills to become a better con man. He is relieved when he has performed his role in a con successfully and he is eager to show his wife the money he has made which will help them pay off their debts. But Augusto knows balancing a normal life with a con life is not possible. He has tried it. He will teach Carlo, he will guide Carlo. Carlo will be Augusto's clay, and Augusto will mold him into a better con artist than he ever was.
Broderick Crawford gives a complete performance. He's dubbed into Italian so it's a performance minus his distinctive voice. Since Crawford's latter performance line readings tend to be spit out and sometimes garbled, and since he usually waddled through his performances without much nuance, it's interesting to see his full range on display six years after he won an Academy Award for All the King's Men.
Guilietta Masina (Mrs. F. Fellini) as Iris, Carlo's wife is not required to do all that much, but appear as a devoted wife. At a party scene we see Iris start to relax and have fun, and later see her egister some genuine concern for her husband as he tries to get an opinion/approval on one of his paintings. Hers is an expressive face which Fellini used in several of his films. She was best in La Strada, Nights of Cabiria and Ginger and Fred. Il Bidone (aka The Swindle - 1955) was written by Fellini , Tulio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano. It's a film that pre-dates Bresson's Pickpocket(`59). It's a gem.
Chris Jarmick, Author of The Glass Cocoon with Serena F. Holder Available End of January 2001.
>END
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9034757c) out of 5 stars Simple and elegant 20 May 2002
By Newton Munnow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Il Bidone is a stark, gritty, unyielding portrait of the life of small time con men in Rome. Augusto sees those who've escaped the rounds about him, at forty eight he is far past his prime and just beginning to realize that he has no idea to escape the rut. The movie is very spare, the cons not particularly interesting as cons, but very weighty in symbolism. The script is playful, sly and heartless, until Augusto bumps into his estranged daughter and begins to work his way back towards humanity. That it will cost him dearly is rarely in doubt, but the passage is fascinating to watch.
If you've heard comparisons to The Sting, forget about them. That would be like calling the South Pacific and Lord of the Flies similar since they're both set on islands. Il Bidone does not function as a story of revenge, or as an example of the grand old life of con men. As a piece of neorealism, we can expect a somber mood and only passing happiness, but it is well worth watching the awakening and demise of Augusto - not as a lesson in morals, but as one in storytelling. Il Bidone carries an emotional punch, half a century later and if you're an admirer of La Strada, here is a harsher, perhaps better, companion piece.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x903479b4) out of 5 stars I liked it 28 Jun. 2002
By chimni - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
My friends hassled me for starting off my Fellini collection with Il Bidone but I've seen the classics and have pretty easy access to seeing them any time. Something a little bit more obscure like this one is harder to track down, so I figured that I'd buy it based on the reviews here. I wasn't disappointed. people were pretty accurate in their impressions. The story is told well, the acting is good and it's something that I lok forward to watching many more times.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9034799c) out of 5 stars The middle chapter in Fellini's "trilogy of loneliness", 12 Mar. 2007
By Galina - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The middle chapter in Fellini's "trilogy of loneliness", made by a master between "La Strada" (1954), and "Nights of Cabiria," (1957), "Il Bidone" (1955) is less known, for long time simply forgotten (and I can't imagine why) but powerful, humorous, heartbreaking, and poignant film. Broderick Crawford, Academy Award winner for playing Willie Stark, a corrupt politician and a charismatic man in "All the King's Men" (1949), gives a compelling performance as Augusto, an aging con man, a leader of a trio of small time crooks who take advantage of poor and uneducated Italians in both country side and poor quarters of Rome. Augusto realizes at the age of 48 that his life of selfishness, greed, and wrongdoings only made his existence meaningless. Once in his life, he decided to con the con men in order to help his daughter whom he rarely sees but deeply loves with fulfilling her dreams of better life but a swindle gone wrong leads Augusto to the final scene of pain, both physical and mental, to loneliness and desperation. It is very much like "Nights of Cabiria" final scene but without eternal hope of Cabiria's smile...

Technically, "Il Bidone" is a very strong film with memorable performances, including the smaller cameos. Fellini's directing is as satisfying as always and many scenes remind of his future triumphs (New Year party is a stunning sequence and brings to mind "La Dolce Vita", 1960 ). Nino Rota's music and Otello Martinelli's cinematography add to many pleasures of the film, one of them is Giulietta Masina who plays supporting role of Iris, the wife of Picasso (Richard Basehart), the younger con artist with a dream to become an Artist. Both, Masina and Basehart starred in Fellini's first chapter of "trilogy of loneliness", "La Strada" (1954).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90347e64) out of 5 stars Overlooked Fellini 15 Nov. 2010
By Cliente de Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'm very glad I bought this movie. I picked it up only because I'm trying to gather most of Richard Basehart's films, and I was pleasantly surprised when watching it. Don't be discouraged by the fact this movie has received so many negative critics since it was presented more than 50 years ago; if you liked "La Strada" and "Nights of Cabiria", you'll love this one. This is a simple yet very powerful sad story with wonderful performances and a very restrained direction from Fellini (I read somewhere that he felt somewhat detached of the movie when directing it). On top of it, it has the most catchy, fun score by the great Nino Rota! A few bad notes though: as other reviewers remark this DVD has the version released in the USA in 1962, which is about 20% shorter in length than the original release (which I haven't seen, of course). I guess this is the reason why the story of the very interesting secondary characters is abruptly interrupted. Also the image quality is not very good. Why this movie hasn't been restored and released by the Criterion Collection? I will pray for that!
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