The good news is that KINO-Lorber has put out legit copies of this title, along with two more Carlo Ponti produced pics starring his wife, Sophia Loren, all helmed by Vittorio de Sica. (Ciao, crappy Public Domain DVDs!) The bad news is that we get a fine clear copy of . . . SUNFLOWER, their artistic nadir. Loren knew she was at her best under De Sica, his great gifts with non-pro actors undoubtedly came into play, but she was only right about their comedies.* This alas, is a soapy concoction about a rushed WWII marriage between Loren & Marcello Mastroianni and his subsequent disappearance at the Eastern front. Sophia searches all the Russias until she finds her man . . . and then the complications set in. There’s hardly a believable moment in the whole soggy contraption, even cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno phones it in, while Henry Mancini’s slushy score tries to outdo Maurice Jarre on DR. ZHIVAGO/’65.* Near the end, a couple of atmospheric scenes in & around the Milan train station with a defeated Mastroianni show what the film might have been, but it’s hardly worth hanging around for. Hard to believe that De Sica, scripter Cesare Zavattini & co-producer Arthur Cohn’s next was a film as superb & sophisticated as THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS/’71.*
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Naturally, Sophia won her Oscar for the heavy dramatics of De Sica’s TWO WOMEN/’61 rather than any of their delectable comedies. **And, wouldn't you just know it, Mancini got Oscar nom’d for this sludge-fest. ***On the other hand, while Holocaust-themed pics tend to earn Oscar’s favor, FINZI-CONTINIS actually deserved its Best Foreign Pic nod.