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Buena Vista Home Video presents
Shadows in the Sun (2005)

"Life is about seizing the moment. And you just let this one slip by."
- Weldon Parish (Harvey Keitel)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: July 06, 2006

Stars: Harvey Keitel, Joshua Jackson, Claire Forlani, Armando Pucci, Giancarlo Giannini
Other Stars: Valeria Cavalli, Bianca Guaccero, Silvia De Santis, John Rhys-Davies
Director: Brad Mirman

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:31m:57s
Release Date: April 25, 2006
UPC: 786936697957
Genre: romance

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+A-B B

DVD Review

The fertile beauty of Tuscany has long attracted filmmakers who swoon over the region's sweeping pastoral vistas, to-die-for sunsets, and salt-of-the-earth charm. Its rural villages and crusty residents have complemented (and often upstaged) scads of movies, most notably Under the Tuscan Sun, so it wouldn't surprise me a bit if writer-director Brad Mirman picked the location first and then built a film around it. Of course, Mirman himself is the only one who really knows how Shadows in the Sun evolved, but nevertheless this cloying continental confection flaunts the look and feel of something all too familiar, and suffers from a shabby DVD treatment that does its best to sabotage the director's vision and magnify the film's faults.

The story of a buttoned up publishing executive (and aspiring writer) who comes to Tuscany to pursue a reclusive author, and winds up bewitched by both Italy and the author's daughter was originally titled The Shadow Dancer when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Not long after, however, it turned up on TV as Shadows in the Sun, and it seems Buena Vista has lifted that pan-and-scan television transfer—with its awkward commercial breaks intact—and unceremoniously slapped it on a DVD. The movie now possesses the generic look and feel of a made-for-TV production, and unfortunately, Mirman's trite, saccharine script has trouble convincing us it was ever anything else.

Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) portrays Jeremy Taylor, the young exec who's dispatched to find, court, and sign literary giant Weldon Parish (Harvey Keitel), a J.D. Salinger/Harper Lee hybrid who penned a classic novel (The Shadow Dancer) a couple of decades ago, and hasn't written a word since. At first, Parish brusquely dismisses the persistent Jeremy, but soon takes him under his wing, hoping to instill in him the experiences and sensitivity required to become a novelist. Learning to love, of course, is high on the list of prerequisites, and Parish's gorgeous daughter, Isabella (Claire Forlani), nicely fills the bill. As Jeremy comes of age, Parish begins to come around, but first must confront his own long-suppressed creative demons.

I've always been intrigued by stories about writers, hoping to find some inspiration or illuminating nugget buried within them, yet so often it seems as if the writers concocting these literary tales know precious little about their own craft. Mirman is no exception, and the moments when Parish teaches Jeremy about writing are so hackneyed and banal, they provoke titters instead of awe, and make one wonder how Parish ever got published (and Mirman got green-lighted) in the first place. Mirman also shamelessly borrows from other films—Chocolat and Dead Poet's Society chief among them—which doesn't do a profession that's continually barraged by charges of plagiarism any favors.

The romance between Jeremy and Isabella is fine, but there's not enough of it to lend Shadows in the Sun the passion it craves, or justify marketing it as a love story. Jackson and Forlani do generate some sparks, and both file pleasing juvenile portrayals, but their roles don't possess enough depth to properly engage us. Keitel can be an excellent actor when given the right role, but the eccentric Parish doesn't suit him, and his mannerisms and line deliveries remind us too much of his good buddy Robert De Niro in one of his recent oddball comedies.

And tell me this... Why does every male character in the film sport a three-day growth of beard? I don't mind the unshaven look (especially in rural Tuscany), but it's so uniformly manicured on everyone, it doesn't ring true. But then again, not much in this movie does. Shadows in the Sun may extol the restorative power of Tuscany, but its corny story and tired themes drag its audience down.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: When you set a film in Tuscany, you better have a damn good cinematographer to capture all of the region's beauty, and thankfully, Shadows in the Sun has Maurizio Calvesi, an Italian native who's spent his life photographing his homeland. Yet unfortunately (or should I say, tragically), Buena Vista has chosen to butcher his work by releasing only a pan-and-scan version of the film. The cropped image that remains is still pretty as a picture, with fine clarity and well-modulated color bringing the Tuscan villages and countryside to life, but one can only imagine (and rue!) what must be missing. Scenic movies especially demand to have their aspect ratios preserved, and it's a shame Buena Vista can't or won't honor the director's original vision.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo track supplies adequate sound, although not much separation could be detected. Dialogue remains clear and distinct throughout, and Mark Thomas' romantic music score nicely fills the room.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Eight Below, Annapolis, Everything You Want
1 Documentaries
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Cast and crew interviews
Extras Review: For such a slight film, Shadows in the Sun certainly packs on the extras, but you've really gotta love the movie to take the time to wade through them all. First up is the generically titled documentary, The Making of Shadows in the Sun, which goes into tedious detail about every aspect of production. The film runs 32 minutes, but seems much longer, and features the cast and crew (with the notable exception of Keitel) discussing the seductive locations, analyzing the plot, and praising director Mirman ad nauseum. Mirman recalls butting heads with Keitel (and how it ultimately helped the movie) and vents his frustrations over the vagaries of sheep and birds. Jackson and Forlani also chime in on a number of topics, an interminable segment salutes Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini, and miles of behind-the-scenes footage give us more than a taste of the jovial on-set life.

If you're still craving more after that, then by all means access the cast and crew interviews, which feature chats with Forlani, Jackson, Mirman, and producer Jamie Brown. Forlani expounds on no fewer than 11 topics, including her co-stars, developing her accent, and learning the fiesta dance, while Mirman (who's not nearly as attractive) pontificates on a whopping 13! Jackson and Brown do their fair share of babbling, too, and the whole thing runs almost 45 minutes, which is about a half-hour too long.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The DVD of Shadows in the Sun leads us to believe this cliché-ridden coming-of-age romance is a made-for-TV movie, and sadly, writer-director Brad Mirman rarely gives us a reason to think otherwise. A pan-and-scan transfer only makes matters worse, and though the beauty of the Tuscan scenery and actress Claire Forlani still shine through, they're not enough to salvage this shallow, unsatisfying film.


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