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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Senso [Blu-ray]


(Luchino Visconti, 1954)


Studio Canal's version (not English friendly - has German and French subs/DUBs) is available HERE:



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Lux Film

Video: Criterion Collection - spine # 556



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:03:28.818

Disc Size: 47,880,790,577 bytes (Studio Canal is 44,021,574,097 bytes)

Feature Size: 24,122,935,296 bytes (Studio Canal is 28,528,386,048 bytes)

Video Bitrate: 22.49 Mbps (Studio Canal is 23.97 Mbps)

Chapters: 19

Release date: February 22nd, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio Italian 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit



English (SDH), none


The Wanton Countess, the rarely seen English-language version of the film (1:34:00 in 1080P)
The Making of “Senso,” a new documentary featuring Rotunno, assistant director Francesco Rosi, costume designer Piero Tosi, and Caterina D’Amico, daughter of screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico and author of Life and Work of Luchino Visconti (33:46 in 1080P)
Viva VERDI, a new documentary on Visconti, Senso, and opera (36:05 in 1080P)
• Visual essay by film scholar Peter Cowie (28:27 in 1080P)
• “Man of Three Worlds: Luchino Visconti,” a 1966 BBC program exploring Visconti’s mastery of cinema, theater, and opera direction (48:15 in 1080i)
• Liner notes booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker and author Mark Rappaport and an excerptfrom actor Farley Granger’s autobiography,
Include Me Out





Description: This lush, Technicolor tragic romance from Luchino Visconti stars Alida Valli as a nineteenth-century Italian countess who, during the Austrian occupation of her country, puts her marriage and political principles on the line by engaging in a torrid affair with a dashing Austrian lieutenant, played by Farley Granger. Gilded with ornate costumes and sets and a rich classical soundtrack, and featuring fearless performances, this operatic melodrama is an extraordinary evocation of reckless emotions and deranged lust, from one of the cinema’s great sensualists.



The Film:

Visconti counterposes romance and rebellion in this historical tale of love and betrayal set against the Italian risorgimento in 1866. Both the aristocracy and Garibaldi's partisan patriots battle the Austro-Hungarian Empire for Italian independence. During a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Il Trovatore" in Venice, as the operatic chorus chants "All'armi, all'armi" (to arms, to arms), the patriots in the stalls and the Italian aristocrats in the boxes take up the chant and unfurl the Italian flag, to the alarm of the occupying Austrian officers. A young Austrian lieutenant, Granger, makes a disparaging remark about the Italians and is challenged to a duel by the fiery young Girotti, an underground leader. His cousin, the beautiful contessa Valli, is in attendance with a group of Austrian officers.


A visually beautiful, well-crafted, disarmingly cynical set-piece in which the motives of the proud patriots seem as banal and petty as those of the selfishly lustful. Cinematographer Graziata died during production.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Criterion Senso edition is advertised as "The celebrated Film Foundation/Cineteca di Bologna digital restoration, created in consultation with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno and Martin Scorsese". On Blu-ray it looks quite marvelous - reasonably consistent - except in a few parts (like the conclusion which shows some wear). We've compared a few captures from the Studio Canal Blu-ray version (that offers no English subtitles). I don't have any strong opinions on the color/contrast differences that vary throughout the appearance. At times I like the look of the Studio Canal and other times the Criterion. Technically they are quite close - with similar file sizes and bitrates. It is kind of a moot point as the Studio Canal has no English subtitles - the edition has Italian language and options for French and German DUBs/subs. This Criterion image quality via Blu-ray looks to improve as the 2-hour film runs along and perhaps has the most detail in-and-around 3/4 the way in where depth is present. I have no doubt this extensive digital restoration has visually improved the video quality a substantial amount and all things considered it looks very good - frequently the colors are impressive. It sometimes reminds me of the look of Ophuls' Lola Montes on Blu-ray - thick and heavy with richness and color-infused canvas texture (and Alida Valli always reminds me of Martine Carol!).


David Hare tells us: "It looked ideal to me, especially after every single other previous version, and indeed every single 35 or 16 screening I've ever seen over three continents and decades, and it gives a very honest representation of what I imagine the Rittrovate restoration looks like in 35mm. What is clear is the opening credit sequence in a single take/single shot with the duo in the "di quella Pira" aria from Trovatore, simply looks like a reprint in lower color registration/optical shot from the very next/second shot to the balcony of la Fenice). And hereafter the image texture and color resume full saturation - the general integrity of the image - and it looks just great. The Canal's "lightness" is something I very much like in the scheme of things, especially considering the substantial volume of exteriors Visconti shot, which were not kept in the final Producer's - and this -Italian language cut.

The biggest test - as ever - in any Italian Technicolor film, especially historical Technicolor film - is the correct reproduction of the color red in the tricolore. I have the same issues (or doubts or whatever) here as I do with every version so far of Gattopardo. It teeters from pink to red to orange to whatever, but it never appears to be a basic, true red. The answer to this profound question requires genuinely authoritative response...
" (Thanks David!)




Criterion Blu-ray TOP vs. Studio Canal Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Criterion Blu-ray TOP vs. Studio Canal Blu-ray MIDDLE vs. Criterion "The Wanton Countess" Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Criterion Blu-ray TOP vs. Studio Canal Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Criterion Blu-ray TOP vs. Studio Canal Blu-ray - BOTTOM



More Criterion Blu-ray Captures











Audio :

Audio gets a lossless linear PCM treatment in the original flat mono. The track has some Verdi classics including "L'onda de'suoni mistici", "D'amor sull'ali rosee" and "Di quella pira" - plus, of course, Bruckner's 7th Symphony. There is no depth nor separation but is impacting nonetheless - the dialogue sounds reasonably clean and clear - and there are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified the disc as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Firstly, Criterion offers the 1 1/2 hour rarely seen English-language version of the film entitled The Wanton Countess. It looks a bit rougher (hazier - see sample above) than the main feature but is in 1080P. Though its release history is not clear, The Wanton Countess did appear in the UK and is thought to have been shown years later, on American television. This version is notable not just for the fact that we can hear Farley Granger and Alida Valli speaking their lines in English but also for providing evidence of the "dialogue collaboration" credited to Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles. Lasting 30 minutes is The Making of “Senso,” (also in 1080P) a new documentary featuring Rotunno, assistant director Francesco Rosi, costume designer Piero Tosi, and Caterina D’Amico, daughter of screenwriter Suso Cecchi D’Amico and author of Life and Work of Luchino Visconti. It traces the history of Senso from the film's origins in a novella by Carmen Boito to its hostile reception in Italy upon its release, and includes interviews with the above noted participants. Viva VERDI, is a 1/2 hour new documentary on Visconti, Senso, and opera. We learn that along with his film career, Luchino Visconti was a hugely important opera director. In this documentary they highlight the theme - melodrama, history, sexuality - that lend Visconti's work its operatic force. Peter Cowie offers and excellent 'visual essay' running just shy of 30 minutes. He also looks at themes - pictorial, musical and political - that director Visconti wove together to create Senso. A 50-minute episode of the April-1966 BBC program 'Sunday Night' explores Visconti’s artistry as a director of film, theater, and opera. It is entitled “Man of Three Worlds: Luchino Visconti" and is in 1080i. Lastly we get a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by filmmaker and author Mark Rappaport and an excerpt from actor Farley Granger’s autobiography, Include Me Out: My Life from Goldwyn to Broadway. A superb selection of supplements for those keen to indulge.



Senso is a film that I'm sure I will revisit for many years to come - most probably the rest of my life. Truly it is a masterpiece akin to Shakespeare - exploring the shameless side of humanity's cruel nature and the tragic aspects of romance lost. The appearance resembles a magical painting. This is another immensely valuable title for Criterion to have brought to Blu-ray - some might consider it their most important contribution to date. The scope of the film is as dramatic and encompassing as they come in all of cinema. This is an essential package that we give our highest recommendation. 

Gary Tooze

February 1st, 2011


Studio Canal's version (not English friendly - has German and French subs/DUBs) is available HERE:



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

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Gary W. Tooze






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