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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

A Special Day aka "Una giornata particolare" [Blu-ray]


(Ettore Scola, 1977)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #778



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:47:02.457

Disc Size: 46,225,884,673 bytes

Feature Size: 28,665,384,960 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.75 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: October 13th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

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, none



Human Voice, a 2014 short film starring Sophia Loren and directed by Edoardo Ponti (25:34)
New interviews with Scola (21:13) and Loren (14:37)
Two 1977 episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Loren and actor Marcello Mastroianni (28:03 + 28:04)
Trailer (2:47)
PLUS: An essay by critic Deborah Young






Description: Italian cinema dream team Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni are cast against glamorous type and deliver two of the finest performances of their careers in this moving, quietly subversive drama from Ettore Scola. Though it’s set in Rome on the historic day in 1938 when Benito Mussolini and the city first rolled out the red carpet for Adolf Hitler, the film takes place entirely in a working-class apartment building, where an unexpected friendship blossoms between a pair of people who haven’t joined the festivities: a conservative housewife and mother tending to her domestic duties and a liberal radio broadcaster awaiting deportation. Scola paints an exquisite portrait in muted tones, a story of two individuals helpless in the face of Fascism’s rise.



The Film:

Antonietta and Gabriele make an extremely unlikely couple. She's an overworked, barely literate housewife, the mother of six, a woman with a drawn face and the haggard expression of someone who's long since given up on what she looks like, but she accepts her lot, which includes a talking mynah bird that can't even get her name right. She is, however, an enthusiastic supporter of Mussolini, who is, for Antonietta, both a savior and a sex symbol. She keeps a scrapbook on his life.

Gabriele is a fastidious bachelor, intelligent, sensitive and sardonic, and he's at the end of his rope. He's been cashiered from his job as an announcer on the government-sponsored radio station because he's suspected of being degenerate, that is, homosexual, which he is. In Italy in 1938, homosexuals were rounded up and packed off to Sardinia, where they couldn't contaminate the Fascist culture.

In Ettore Scola's funny, humane "A Special Day"—an acting tour de force for Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni—Antonietta and Gabriele are never really a couple, but their brief encounter lights up the screen with the kind of radiance you get only from great movie actors who also are great stars.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

On the day that Adolf Hitler arrives in Italy on a state visit, a housewife (Sophia Loren) who’s married to a fascist gets acquainted with a gay former radio personality (Marcello Mastroianni). One of the films that made director Ettore Scola internationally famous. His point is obvious; Loren’s character doesn’t care about politics, but her encounter with a victim of fascism opens her eyes. The meeting is eerily accompanied by the sounds of the fascist rally taking place somewhere in Rome. Well-made and somewhat moving, this is essentially a beautiful love story about unhappy souls finding comfort in each other. The stars are excellent.

Excerpt from thrilling me Softly located HERE


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

A Special Day looks authentic on Blu-ray from Criterion. Firstly, the film was restored from the original camera negative preserved by the rights holder, Surf Film. Director Ettore Scola and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli supervised the color grading process to restored the special look of cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis's photography. The restoration was done by CSC-Cineteca Nazionale at L'Immagine Ritrovata in 2014. Criterion's transfer is cited as a 'new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Ettore Scola'.  Yes, the bleached, faded, sepia-leaning look (aside from the archival clips at the beginning) is wholly intentional. This is dual-layered with a high bitrate and we can guess that it is a solid representation of the original film. There are some wonderful textures exported by the 1080P. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and detail in the close-ups are impressive. I doubt it can look better than this on digital. Excellent.








Future Film - PAL DVD - TOP vs. Criterion Blu-ray BOTTOM


NOTE: The 'bleached-sepia' look is the accurate appearance as referenced in reviews of the late 70's














Audio :

Audio is in a linear PCM 1.0 channel mono track at 1152 kbps in the original Italian (24-bit). It's as passive and dialogue-driven as you might expect. The touching score is by Armando Trovajoli (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Marriage Italian Style, La Vista) and sounds very supportive, flat and clean in the uncompressed transfer. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

There are two new interviews, conducted by Criterion in Rome 2015, with Ettore Scola for 21-minutes as he discusses the arc of his career and the way he wanted to create the character of Gabriele (Mastroianni) and the second with Sophia and Loren for 15-minutes where she recalls working with director Scola, her fears about playing Antonietta and the challenges of shooting the love scene. Included are two episodes of The Dick Cavett Show featuring Loren and actor Marcello Mastroianni lasting 28-minutes each. They had famously good chemistry and appeared to promote A Special Day for Cavett's PBS program. The resulting hour long conversation was originally broadcast on October 10th and November 4th in 1977. An interesting inclusion is a 2014 short film by Edoardo Ponti, starring Sophia Loren . It is entitled Human Voice, and was inspired by Jean Cocteau's 1930 play La Voix humaine. Edoardo Ponti is the son of Loren and producer Carlo Point. It runs 26-minutes. Lastly, there is a trailer and the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Deborah Young.



I considered calling this a minor masterpiece - simply for the performances but that may be understating A Special Day. There is a reason why it is rated 8.1 on IMDb. The film is worth seeing for Sophia Loren alone - it may be one of her best roles. It is almost a 'chamber piece'. Wow - so great to see it both restored (2014) and given the Criterion Blu-ray treatment. This package offers so much value that it gets our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

September 19th, 2015



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 5000 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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Gary W. Tooze






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