Sunflower
R0 - United Kingdom - Argent Films
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (11th January 2015).
The Film

***This is an A/V and Extras review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

Oscar® winner, Sophia Loren (TWO WOMEN) and award- winning Marcello Mastroianni (DOLCE VITA, 8 ˝) are newlyweds separated by war who never give up on one another despite almost impossible odds.

Mastroianni is the soldier left to die in the snow at the Russian front as of WWII ends. Loren is his bride who, refusing to believe that her ‘Missing In Action’ husband is dead, travels to the sunflower plains of Ukraine – seemingly to end of the earth, in by-then postwar Russia – to search for the man she vowed she would never abandon.

Produced by Loren’s husband, Carlo Ponti of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO fame, SUNFLOWER recalls Zhivago with its rich, wide-vista production of this heartfelt drama of war-torn lovers. Underpinned by Mancini’s Oscar-nominated rousing score and magnificently directed by one of Italy’s greatest filmmaker, Vittorio De Sica (BICYCLE THIEVES, TWO WOMEN), who taps into his neo-realist roots to depict the human tragedy of war-displaced persons as seen through the heroic determination of Loren’s character.

Video

Independent British distributor Argent Films have released the Sophia Loren film "Sunflower" on to DVD for the first time in the United Kingdom (not including the unauthorised release from Jef Films) in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is anamorphic, and is okay, but not noteworthy.

When released onto VHS by Embassy Home Entertainment in the mid-eighties, some 8 minutes were missing from the original theatrical release. Fans will be happy to know that the source Argent Films have used, have these missing eight minutes fully restored and taken from HD elements. Unfortunately though, there is a rather big issue that many may notice, and that is the fact it is an NTSC->PAL transfer, with every 24th frame shown twice. This results in some very minor but noticeable judder, especially during panning shots such as the one where the camera following Sophia Loren across the graveyard at 50:57. In more static scenes, it isn't too much of a problem. There are positives to be had here as well though. Colours are reminiscent of the era, and can show good depth with little problems, and skin tones look natural. Blacks are deep, but at the loss of detail, especially in clothing where we can't even see buttons. Other details are generally okay, with surrounding foliage showing reasonable clarity and close-ups showing some good amounts of detail. Sometimes in mid-length shots though, items and faces can become a little clunky and fuzzy. There is some minor damage throughout the transfer, mainly small specks and the occasional thin scratch, but nothing major that will cause concern. Overall, this is a fairly mediocre effort. Certainly not unwatchable, but a long way from reference quality.

The film is uncut and runs 107:15.

Audio

There are two audio options available:
- Italian/Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono
- English Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono

For my viewing I of course opted for the original Italian/Russian language Dolby Digital 2.0 Dual Mono track. It's quite a mediocre affair, though I'm guessing the source wasn't particularly great. The score by Henry Mancini ("Silver Streak", "The Pink Panther Strikes Again") is easily the highlight here, but is rather formulaic and nothing we haven't heard before. Dialogue is clear for the vast majority of the time, though a couple of lines did come across as slightly mumbled. The effects don't have much depth to them and, along with the dialogue, does come across rather flat at times. There are various levels of background hiss throughout, but at least there aren't any major scratches or pops, and I didn't notice any drop outs.

Optional English subtitles have been included.

Extras

The main extra feature here is a long documentary entitled "Sophia: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" clocking in at 54:03. Made for Italian television, this documentary interviews many people from the film business, including Woody Allen, Dino Risi, and Claude Chabrol, as well as an agent, a critic, Sophia herself, and her sister. It follows her career and discusses various films and her roles within them, interspersed with numerous film clips and some really great photographs from over the years. Interesting and certainly worth a watch, it is just unfortunate that it is non-anamorphic.

The rest of the extras are self explanatory...
Photo Gallery (28 pics)
Start-up Trailers:
- "The Battle of Algiers" (2:00)
- "Massacre in Rome" (1:22)
- "The Protagonists" (1:04)
Bonus Trailers:
- "The Battle of Algiers" (2:00)
- "Attack Force Z" (1:07)
- "8 1/2" (3:52)
- "The Protagonists" (1:04)
- "Massacre in Rome" (1:22)
- "Casablanca Express" (1:46)
- "Django" (1:17)
- "Keoma" (1:44)
- "Django Kill!" (1:31)
- "A Bullet for the General" (1:34)
Recommendations (listed under Trailers):
- "Best of World Cinema" (1 page)
- "Argent's Erotics" (1 page)
- "Most Outrageous Cult Films" (1 page)

Overall

The Film: B- Video: C Audio: C Extras: C Overall: C

 


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