Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)

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Released 9-Nov-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Audrey Wells (Director And Screenwriter)
Featurette-Tuscany 101
Deleted Scenes-3
Easter Egg
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 108:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Audrey Wells
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Diane Lane
Sandra Oh
Lindsay Duncan
Raoul Bova
Vincent Riotta
Mario Monicelli
Roberto Nobile
Anita Zagaria
Evelina Gori
Giulia Steigerwalt
Pawel Szajda
Valentine Pelka
Sasa Vulicevic
Case ?
RPI ? Music Christophe Beck
Daniele Luppi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Portuguese
Dutch
Estonian
French Titling
Spanish Titling
Portuguese Titling
French Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Swedish Audio Commentary
Norwegian Audio Commentary
Danish Audio Commentary
Finnish Audio Commentary
Icelandic Audio Commentary
Portuguese Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Every so often you watch a film that reinforces the very reason why you take the time to watch them in the first place - for the pure enjoyment value the medium brings. Under The Tuscan Sun is one such film. I had such a lovely calm and warm feeling inside me after watching this that I wanted to hug someone straightaway and then hop on a plane bound for Italy. It is a warm-hearted and engaging tale that will surely leave you feeling just a little bit happier by the end of it.

††† Based on the book of the same name, Diane Lane absolutely glows as the main character (and author of the novel) Frances Mayes. Frances is a struggling author and reviewer of books, whose life seems pretty good living with her husband in San Francisco. Interestingly we never see the husband, but when Frances discovers he wants a divorce, her safe and secure world comes tumbling down around her. Forced to move into a short-term style apartment block (apparently a haven for the just-divorced), Frances feels her life is at an end. Will she ever find happiness, let alone true love ever again? All looks lost until two of her close friends decide to forsake a planned tour of Italy and send Frances in their place. Maybe things are just about to look up.

††† Arriving in Italy with the tour group (it's a gay tour - designed so nobody will try and hit on the poor divorcee!) Frances is immediately made to feel welcome. But something is tugging at her emotionally. While wandering through the small town of Cortona she spots a run-down villa for sale in the window of a real estate office and then by chance her tour bus later stops right outside the same villa. Frances sees this as a sign to finally take some chances with her life. Taking the plunge she places an offer on the house and amazingly it is accepted. Only hours after landing in Italy Frances is now the proud owner of small and dilapidated Tuscan villa, much to the mirth and bewilderment of her friends back home.

††† The story then takes a dual path towards a character restoration, as Frances toils with renovating her home, while also renovating her soul. Along the way she meets all manner of garrulous and charming locals including the urbane real estate agent who is attracted to Frances' sheer beauty, three Polish immigrants she employs to rebuild her home, and her next-door neighbours who take her under their wing and provide all manner of advice, help, and support. She also manages to meet a new and very single suave Italian man and the possibility of romance is rekindled. But the romantic relationship aspect of the story is almost secondary to that of Frances and her struggle to rebuild herself.

††† Filmed primarily on location in Tuscany, Italy (around the small town of Cortona) and on the Amalfi coast (around the dramatically beautiful sea-cliff town of Positano) this is the type of film where the location becomes a major character in its own right. You will find yourself gasping at some of the sights, from endless meadows of bright yellow sunflowers to the amazing construction of the town of Positano as the houses cling to the cliff in all manner of daring and haphazard ways. But thankfully the locations don't overburden or dominate the story, rather they complement it. It is chiefly the casting of Diane Lane in the lead role that is the true masterstroke of this film's success. She is delightful and brings so much warmth and maturity to the role of the down-on-her-luck Frances that you'll find yourself silently cheering inside when her fortunes start to change.

††† Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† While not quite as eye-catchingly magnificent as I was expecting, this is still a really lovely looking transfer with only a couple of minor faults worth mentioning. It is extremely bright, colourful, sharp and clean - just about everything you could ask for. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is also 16x9 enhanced. This is obviously the same aspect ratio as originally shown in the theatre.

††† The transfer is really quite sharp and detailed throughout, with only the slightest amount of edge enhancement visible. Shadow detail is handled very well and grain is virtually non-existent. There is no low level noise.

††† Colours are certainly the highlight of the disc and are really quite splendid with warm, deep and brightly saturated tones when required. Check out the fields of sunflowers for one such magnificent example of pure colour saturation. Skin tones are spot-on and black levels are perfect. There are no problems with bleeding or oversaturation. Bright and delightfully compelling is probably the best way to sum up this superb effort.

††† Compression artefacts are completely absent. Being a very new film, it was hoped there would be few, if any film artefacts. On the whole this is the case, except for a rather large streaky sort of blob at 19:47 that runs for exactly four frames. This artefact is quite noticeable as it sort of flies across the screen from right to left.

††† There are several subtitle options available, but unfortunately there is a bit of an issue with them. There is a significant amount of Italian dialogue in the film, and unless you switch on the subtitles you will not get any default subtitles to interpret this Italian to English. If you do want to understand what is going on when the local people of Cortona speak you need to switch on the English subtitles and unfortunately they then appear for all dialogue. This is not the best solution, but part of me quite likes the idea of being just like the Frances character and not being able to understand what it being said (often about her). It sort of adds to the charm of the film and promotes the foreigner in a strange country feel. Needless to say when the English subtitles are switched on they are pretty accurate and well placed on the screen.

††† This is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting. The layer change is at 67:53. It is placed very well.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† There are a grand total of five audio soundtracks on this disc. First up is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 Kb/s. This track is joined by three Dolby Digital tracks in French, Spanish, and Portuguese encoded at the lower bitrate of 384 Kb/s. Rounding out the selection is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track.

††† In true bright and breezy romantic comedy style the soundtrack here is a real joy to behold. It's light and enjoyable, but also offers some decent surround and low end activity during the obligatory thunderstorm. Obviously the dialogue is anchored firmly in the centre channel, but when the score plays or the action moves to the busy bustling streets of the small towns the front soundstage opens up dramatically and is quite engaging.

††† The dialogue is easily understood (except for the Italian of course), clear and in sync at all times.

††† The score is credited to Christophe Beck and, while fairly typical of the romantic comedy style, is still bright, breezy, and entertaining.

††† There is a small amount of surround channel activity but the lack of aggressive rear channel use is not unsurprising given the sort of film this is. They are mostly utilised for the various street noises that emanate from the bustling Cortona streets and during the early thunderstorm.

††† The subwoofer is not used extensively, but during the thunderstorm sequence comes into its own, if only briefly.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Menu Audio

Audio Commentary - Audrey Wells (Director And Screenwriter)

††† This is a bright and informative commentary track from the director Audrey Wells. She explains many of the filming and more directorial technical aspects in addition to discussing casting, locations, and the usual stuff. Quite informative and since she has a reasonably pleasant voice it is effortless to listen to. It is mostly screen specific.

Featurette - Tuscany 101

††† Unfortunately this is not a lesson or travel montage of the famous area of Italy, but rather a marketing term for making-of featurette. It is brief (runs for just 9:26) and while light on true behind-the-scenes footage contains plenty of the usual promotional style self-congratulatory fluff. A shame because so much more could have been done with what is a magnificent area in the world.

Deleted Scenes

††† There are a total of three deleted scenes, all playable without a commentary which is a shame. The first two run for just 0:35 and 0:49, while the third is a sort of montage of various smaller shots cobbled together and runs for 1:06.

Easter Egg

††† Pretty easy to find (just think of pot plants), this is a slightly amusing and enlightening look at some of the small amount of CGI that was used in the film. When the original rating of R was handed down in the US, the producers must have gone into a frenzy because it was contractually understood that the film delivered would be a PG-13 rating. This featurette looks at the lengths the director had to go to in order to cover a little bit of flesh in order to achieve that PG rating. Runs for 2:36.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† There are a couple of minor differences between the Region 1 disc and the local version:

††† The Region 4 disc misses out on;

††† The Region 1 disc misses out on;

††† There is a full screen (1.33:1) version available in Region 1 should you feel the need. Personally I am more than happy with the Region 4 version.

Summary

††† Under The Tuscan Sun is a charming film that will leave you with a warm inner glow. It is more than just a simple formulaic romantic comedy. As the director describes in her commentary, it is more of a human comedy than anything else. Diane Lane is adorable in her role as the recent divorcee looking for a new direction in her life. Well worth a look.

††† The video quality is fairly decent with some very deep and warm colours on offer.

††† The audio is clean and crisp, and while being dominated by the front soundstage should surely please.

††† The extras are fairly minimal, though the commentary track is quite good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Sunday, July 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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