|Shadows in the Sun|
|Written by Darren Gross|
|Tuesday, 25 April 2006|
Slick young literary editor, Jeremy (Jackson) is given the seemingly impossible task of convincing retired literary giant Weldon Parish (Keitel) to write another novel. Parish hasn’t written in twenty years and lives a reclusive life with his daughters in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Sent to track down Parish by his boss Mr. Benton (Rhys-Davies), Jeremy finds Parish an ornery, protective sort with a prankish sense of humor. Initially incurring Parish’s ire with his slick, businessman’s approach, Jeremy begins a long process to win Parish’s trust, and in the result finds in him an encouraging mentor on life as well as writing. As Jeremy begins to unlock his own repressed writer’s passions, he falls head over heels for Parish’s daughter, Tuscan thunderbolt Isabella (Forlani).
Clearly inspired by similar-themed films like “Under the Tuscan Sun,” “Enchanted April,” “Shirley Valentine,” etc., “Shadow in the Sun”—Britons in hot climates—is pleasant, slick but entirely schematic fare. It’s predictable, and every scene and character trajectory a foregone conclusion, but it’s beautifully shot and sincerely acted. Forlani is beautiful and warm as Isabella (her Italian accent is perfect) and Giannini is clearly enjoying himself in a fun affectionate role as an oddball priest. Keitel is a believable kook and makes a moving, irascible and troubled Parish. His character is depicted much like J.D. Salinger—if he had a Hemingway-esque personality.
Jackson holds his own opposite Keitel (the two have some warm and touching scenes together) but is clearly miscast. He’s simply too soft-spoken and laid back to play the pushy, uptight yuppie the script clearly wants him to be. Once he starts to soften in the middle of the picture, he’s fine but we’d probably feel the importance of his character’s emotional journey more strongly if he started off in a more distant place.
Occasionally the film suffers from a bad case of the “cutes,” and Keitel’s additional daughters are unnecessary. Still, while all the notes are familiar, director Mirman occasionally snaps them into life and provides a few memorable and disarming highlights. Of which, Keitel and Jackson’s sunset scene is sweetly moving; Giannini’s talk with Jackson in the church is fine, and Jackson; Forlani’s dance in the town square is unoriginal but somehow charming. Poor John Rhys-Davies misses out on all the Tuscan fun and literally phones in his performance for the ubiquitous “Boss calls from his office” scenes.
In regards to image quality, Buena Vista’s DVD captures the bright, sun-bathed photography with vivid colors and accuracy. Facial detail is impressive and darker scenes look as they were intended. Despite those high marks, Buena Vista’s DVD should be considered a travesty. While produced as a theatrical feature, it was purchased by Disney and dumped onto television. This DVD unfortunately presents the TV version. This edition butchers the original photography from its original 2.35 ratio framing to a 1.33 pan and scan image. This eliminates the peripheral areas of the image and forces group compositions to look incomplete. In addition, this version is missing about 7 mins of material (presumably the finale of the romantic dance scene and a love scene that would follow) including eliminating revealing shots in Harvey Keitel’s nude scene, softening a brief instance of light profanity (“asshole” becomes “ass”). It also includes gratuitous fade-outs created solely for the placement of TV commercials. The fade-out problem hampers the ending as the image and soaring music are both faded out quickly just as it should be climaxing. There’s even a brief audible ‘pop’ between the truncated ending and the sped-up for TV credit roll.
The stereo sound is clear and well recorded, with the music having nice stereo separation, but is lacking in punch and is most likely a dumbed-down and flattened out mix from the original theatrical surround sound mix. While this isn’t as disastrous as it would be in an action film, there’s a reduction in atmospherics (crickets, wind etc.) that would have been steered to the surrounds and would have made the film more involving.
The bonus features include “The Making of ‘Shadows in the Sun,’” a 33min featurette which is a couple notches above the standard talking-head love fest. The cast and crew interviews are peppered with a large amount of interesting and funny behind the scenes footage, which gives a solid sense of the atmosphere on set. The filmmakers’ comments about difficulties on-set with Harvey Keitel are stated matter-of-factly, as just part of the production process, but it adds a nice dose of honesty to the featurette. The
”Making Of” includes clips from the film shown at the correct 2.35 ratio adding salt to wound.
Also included are 42mins of “Cast and Crew Interviews” which features director Mirman, producer Jamie Brown, and stars Jackson and Forlani. Essentially these are the interviews which the “Making of” featurette is composed of. There’s lots of extra interview material with Claire Forlani, and some more of Mirman, but nearly all Joshua Jackson’s comments were used in the featurette and as such, are a little repetitive. Brown’s segment is relatively brief. The interview section has a couple rough bits that should have been edited out, ie: Forlani tells a story twice and the false start answer to one of the questions is included. The “Sneak Peaks” includes a made for video preview for “Shadows In The Sun.” No theatrical trailer is included, but it is unknown whether one was ever created.
This unoriginal but very likeable and scenic film deserves better than this botched released. Specs for an upcoming Canadian release are unavailable, but hopefully that disc or one in another region will correct the many problems with the feature transfer on this release.