Reviews

Sophia Loren 4-Film Collection

Wrapped in striking red, plush vinyl, the set is every bit as attractive and voluptuous as its eponymous star actress.


Sophia Loren 4-Film Collection

Subtitle: Neapolitan Carousel / Attila / Madame Sans-Gene / Sunflower
Display Artist: Vittorio De Sica, Ettore Giannini, Pietro Francisci, Christian-Jaque
Director: Christian-Jaque
Cast: Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Anthony Quinn
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA rating: Unrated
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-06-10

As I have often bemoaned in past reviews, the box set is too often overlooked as a medium for artistry, companies readily trading sophisticated unity for cheap piecemeal. One look at the Sophia Loren 4-Film Collection immediately resolves any debate which side this work will fall on, squarely and proudly positioning itself in the camp of beautiful anthology.

Wrapped in striking red, plush vinyl, the set is every bit as attractive and voluptuous as its eponymous star actress. It’ outward appearance, though, is not merely an ornate varnish on a poor product. Rather, the plump sheath of the Sophia Loren 4-Film Collection is an accurate mirror of the quality radiating from within.

One only has to slide out the folder which holds the set’s three DVD’s to recognize the amount of careful work that went into this piece’s creation. Ethereal red photography of the Italian beauty is printed on every disc and bleeds onto the interior of the case, as well. Put one of the DVDs into your player and a similar rosy Loren collage splays itself across your screen, marked by elegantly simple menus. This is no ordinary buy-the-rights-and-repackage collection; this is the work of attentive and skillful authoring and design.

With such sophisticated package, one might briefly wonder if it even mattered if the films were of a similarly distinguished quality. Of course, such a postulation would be inane and foolish but more ridiculous things have come to pass on account of hypnotic beauty—in fact, this is one of the themes of the Loren anthology. Luckily, the films themselves do not disappoint.

The first offering is the bizarre Carosello Napoletano. A sort of Italian hymn to the nation’s rich musical and cultural history, the film features several set-pieces tied together by a loose plot about a traveling story teller and music salesman. A stray piece of sheet music will prompt a dissolve to a scene from a production of its opera, a look out a window will transition to a duel between rival serenaders.

Altogether fitful and inordinately long, Carosello Napoletano becomes a bit of a strain to view but the gorgeous cinematography and the stagey yet impressive set dressing rescue the film from mediocrity. Loren plays only a supporting role but the film’s inclusion in the set seems more to situate Loren in Italy’s artistic tradition rather than showcase her performance.

Attila and Madame Sans-Gene are a nice pair of exemplary war epics about, largely, famous generals who fell in love with Sophia Loren. The former, somewhat obviously, chronicles the merciless rise of Attila the Hun to power until a religious miracle stays his hand from the destruction of Rome.

Madame Sans-Gene substitutes the Hun for the petite French emperor and the stakes are much lower. Loren is not a paramour of the powerful man in this film, but, an acquaintance of Napoleon’s from his days as a low-ranking officer. Eventually, Loren falls in love with a soldier who rises to the ranks of Dukedom and eventually Kingdom as a loyal Napoleonic soldier. However, Loren’s sensibilities as a somewhat crass washwomen cause social scandal.

Both films are extremely pleasant to watch, engaging, but never cheap. Sacrificing no grandeur for 90-minute run-times, modern epics could learn a good deal from these pieces.

Finally, I Girasoli is the Loren classic of the set. Although nowhere as famous as Two Women or El Cid, this film seeps cinema (in every positive way). Directed by the Italian master De Sica and costarring Loren’s silver-screen match Marcello Mastroianni, I Girasoli gracefully sweeps through the story of a woman, Giovanna, searching for her husband lost at war in the Russian theatre. Balancing his classic realism with the magical beauty of the film’s star, De Sica crafts an enthralling picture about love and revelation.

The collection absolutely succeeds, charting its focal actress as an icon, a sex symbol, and a wonderful performer. With its genre hopping and its lack of apprehension at dipping into Loren’s less-known catalogue, this box set paints an incredibly full picture of the Italian star. The featurette on Loren and her diva status is no less professional and is the icing on an already sweet cake.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.