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Orchestra Rehearsal
cast: Clara Colosimo, Baldwin Baas, Elizabeth Lubi, Ferdinando Villella, and Ronoldo Bonacchi

director: Federico Fellini

70 minutes (PG) 1978
widescreen ratio 16:9
Infinity Arthouse DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
Infinity Arthouse with their masterpieces of the cinema releases show what a DVD package should be. This is the only time a cardboard sleeve should be acceptable: a slipcase, a nice box, a liner insert and a fabulous extras presentation.

Federico Fellini isn't to everyone's taste, and despite the fulsome praise for Orchestra Rehearsal (aka: Prova d'orchestra) reprinted on the box, this is a slight work, but a slight work by Fellini is a wittily written, beautifully crafted and convincingly acted chamber piece that is never less than amusing and wholly absorbing throughout.

An orchestra gather for a rehearsal in a former oratory, cameras are present to record the event, and unseen interviewers invite the musicians to talk about their instruments and their feelings for music. Some of the musicians are egotistical, stressing their own importance within the orchestra, some are depressed, tied to an instrument they have ceased to care for; for some their calling is just a job, like attending at a factory. The director of the orchestra arrives and rehearsals begin under the watchful eyes of the musicians' union representatives, occasional tremors shake the building. Rehearsals break down, and during a 20-minute break the director confesses to his cynicism about the whole procedure, while the orchestra members reveal their theories about how the process of making music should be conducted. A power cut is the catalyst for a revolt by members of the orchestra until a threat from outside and a tragic death sees harmony restored.

An allegory then, and perhaps a heavy-handed one, but of what; the breakdown of modern society with too much freedom and representation, or a parable about the film-making process itself? The underlying theme of the need for a strong leader may seem a little fascistic but it may just be an assertion of the auteur theory of filmmaking.

The five little documentary films that comprise the second disc's extras, take the director from his time as a youth growing up in Rimini, his departure to Rome and his early film-writing career, the defining success of La Dolce Vita, and the critics reaction to his later films including the autobiographical 8 ½, and these are worth the price of admission alone.

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