Buena Vista/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 108 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Do you remember seeing a sign? Taking a chance on something? As the tagline says, “life offers you a thousand chances, all you have to do is take one”. Under the Tuscan Sun is one of this year’s most heartwarming, enlightening and feel good movies that captures the essence of the unique story from the well-written book, while artistically changing it for the screen, creating a truly beautiful cinematic experience.
Diane Lane glows as Frances Mayes
It is hard to categorise this film as it falls under so many headings. Parts of it feels like a romantic comedy, while others a devastating drama. This is the type of film that fills you up with that warm gushing feeling, capturing the pure essence of life so frankly, honestly and genuinely that is very rarely seen in cinema today, let alone in Hollywood cinema. All of life’s little quirks from dripping taps to spunky men to relationships are captured with realism, entering us into this world that we can so easily relate to. But, to be quite honest, this is definitely not as content-rich as one may be led to believe – this is a film made purely for entertainment purposes, without a real brain in sight. But who cares? You need these types of film every now and then, and Under the Tuscan Sun is just so beautiful to watch it more than makes up for the lack of depth.
This film is, quite obviously, shot on location in and around Tuscany and features dreamy cinematography. It’s like a two hour advertising picture postcard for Tuscany. But oh boy does it work; now where’s that plane ticket gone? Backing up this gorgeous cinematography is brilliant direction and acting from all involved, magically capturing the heart of the film with a down-to-earth performance by Diane Lane who you can’t help but fall in love with, exquisite pacing and a surprise around every corner. Just quite simply do yourself a favour and rent this disc for your next night of entertainment, and settle back with your loved one and escape with this fantastic plastic disc to pure, unadulterated escapism.
- "Think of your inner voice" - "Inner voice... "What the f*ck am I doing on a gay tour of Tuscany? ""
"You're gay and away!"... No shit...
Frances Mayes, played by a perfect Diane Lane, is going through a rather nasty period in her life. Her husband has been cheating on her, he ended up with it all through the divorce and she is now living in an apartment building full of exes. Two of her friends give her the most life-changing present ever – a tour of romantic Tuscany. Frances is uneasy about this as she is not ready for a relationship yet. Ah, but there’s a twist – it’s a gay tour of romantic Tuscany. Problem solved! While stopped off in a quaint Italian town, Frances spots a piece of real estate – a lovely large villa. It’s the sort of sign that makes you stop and think about it for a split second until the tour bus is ready to move on, forcing you to leave it all behind. Now seeing something once is a coincidence. Seeing something twice is a real sign. As luck would have it, the bus gets slowed down by some wandering stock and old Italian men right in front of this gorgeous villa. Frances stops right there and takes a chance. A chance on a new world, a new home, new friends and a new life.
Under the Tuscan Sun follows the story of Frances Mayes starting all over again, giving everyone the hope and belief in themselves, showing us what can happen when you simply do take a chance.
Under the Tuscan Sun has been presented to us on a simply gorgeous DVD, with very little general comment needed. Colours are vividly saturated, yet remaining buoyantly lifelike, with solid deep tones. The clarity of the image is consistently superb, finely detailing the beautiful scenery and generally static on-screen action with poise and precision. Film artefacts are limited to the odd white speck, and a fine grain wash is all that hinders the smoothness of the image. There are two weird things though. Firstly, one may mistake a flying bug for an MPEG artefact when Frances arrives at Bramasole, as the frame rate conversion process has led to this flying critter appearing four “onion-skinned” times in the one frame. This is ever-so-brief, like for only a few frames, yet does look rather nasty. For those busy cuddling, however, it won’t be a problem as they are suitably distracted.
The second issue is more important and, quite simply, disappointing. Throughout the film, some phrases are said in Italian, some of which are important to the progression of the scene. During the theatrical release, subtitles appeared at the appropriate places, however this reviewer couldn’t get any to automatically appear on three DVD players. You can view them by turning the English subtitles on, however that displays the English dialogue as well as the Italian subtitled dialogue. For such a recent film and given the experience that many DVD authors gain nowadays this type of error is quite inexcusable, and sadly a rather annoying and detrimental fault to find.
Positively though, the English subtitles, when displayed, are accurate, well-paced and easy to read. And to make things better, the layer change is so discretely placed even the Sony DVP-NS530 barely made a sound as it flew by, normally a player to make every layer change well-known.
Out of the swarm of Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, the English track is quite obviously the best way to go, assuming that's your language.
Generally this is a fairly neat track; however at times it doesn’t sound quite real. The dialogue is heavily focused on the centre channel, and comes across cleanly and in synch, yet feels a little over-compressed and muffled. The effects, for most of the film, force themselves towards the front of the soundstage, with the rear channels getting the faintest of ambient noises such as crowds and cheering, except for a stunning thunderstorm which rips up the 5.1 soundstage with anger, force and a thumping woof-woof.
The score, credited to Christophe Beck, is glorious for the mood and genre of the film, adding an effervescent bubble to the film and a light and carefree touch. The finale of the film into the end credits really lets the score shine, giving the audience a warm fluffy feeling as they get up from the couch and reach for the remote.
Under the Tuscan Sun
The menus, anamorphically enhanced, feature background audio with transitions between the different areas, but are otherwise static except for some subtle animation on the main menu. The first on our extra features list is a 9:26 featurette called Tuscany 101 which features interviews from Diane Lane, Audrey Wells and Frances Mayes in relation to the film, the novel, and the general promotional type hype and congratulatory speeches. Next up are three measly deleted scenes; The Singing Contractor (0:35), Discovering the Fresco (0:49) and Clapper Montage (1:06). Sadly, the Region 4 disc gets shafted with the exclusion of the commentary tracks for these scenes which have been included on the Region 1 counterpart.
And last, but definitely not least, is an audio commentary from writer/director Audrey Wells. Often she leaves us watching the film with its native dialogue, but then suddenly she chimes back in, reminding us that there is actually a commentary track on the disc. However, when she gets going, she lets fly, with fairly detailed comments about specific scenes, the transition from the novel and the casting details. It’s just getting started that’s the hard part.
Under the Tuscan Sun has been one of this reviewer’s most anticipated releases of the year following a highly successful theatrical run in early 2004. This film is one that you can watch on your own or with a loved one, again and again, filling you with the desire, inspiration and hope to take a chance in your own life. The result is a hugely warm cinematic experience that shines generously on DVD.