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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Stealing Beauty (1996)

"I can feel the night behind me."
- Lucy (Liv Tyler)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: January 08, 2002

Stars: Liv Tyler, Jeremy Irons, Sinéad Cusack, Donal McCann
Other Stars: Rachel Weisz, Stefania Sandrelli, Jean Marais, D.W. Moffett, Joseph Fiennes, Carlo Cecchi, Jason Flemyng, Anna-Maria Gherardi, Ignazio Oliva, Francesco Siciliano, Mary Jo Sorgani, Leonardo Treviglio, Rebecca Valpy, Alessandra Vanzi, Roberto Zibetti
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Manufacturer: CMCA
MPAA Rating: R for (for strong sexuality, nudity, some drug use and language)
Run Time: 01h:58m:03s
Release Date: January 08, 2002
UPC: 024543028338
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ AA-A- C+

DVD Review

I first discovered this film on cable, and was immediately captivated by its sumptuous cinematography, and the simmering sensuousness with which this coming of age drama unfolds.

Stealing Beauty tells the story of Lucy Harmon (Liv Tyler), a nineteen-year-old American girl returning to Italy, where she fell in love for the first time four years earlier, while on summer holiday with her mother's bohemian friends. At a villa situated in the sun drenched hills of Tuscany, word of her virginity ignites the imaginations and passions of all around her, as they try to find an ideal candidate for her rite of passage into womanhood. Lucy, however, is holding out for more than just the fruition of passion—she wants to be in love.

Alex (Jeremy Irons), a dying writer, becomes her confidant, reinvigorated by the youthful and blossoming energy Lucy represents. For the owners of the house, Ian and Diane, Lucy is a reminder of her mother, a noted poet, whose portrait Ian had worked on many years prior. Now it is Lucy's turn to pose, but she is searching for answers in this foreign landscape, and hoping to bask in the intoxication of love under the warm summer skies of the vineyards and olive groves of the community.

Academy Award®-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci, known for his exquisite visual style, returns to his native Italy after a 10 year absence for this journey of discovery. Few filmmakers can capture the depth of color he does, exuding a warmth and earthiness rarely achieved. As the camera flows through each scene, details are exposed; whether exploring the interior of a room, or taking in the sensory elements of the surroundings, these add immeasurably to the character of the film. The composition is wonderfully executed by moving characters in and out of shadow and light, or shooting through elements, using the form of doorways, curtains or windows to frame and add dimension to the depth of the shot. His camera is almost always in motion, bringing new perspective to each scene, and judicious use of long, medium and extreme closeup, pull the viewer into the film as necessary. Bertolucci excels at introductions, often bringing characters into play as abstracts, either silhouetted from behind, or emerging from shadow, or by moving through space before finally revealing the facial features. The use of language is also critical to the film, as it moves from English to Italian and French, as is Bertolucci's passion for poetry, which intertwines the sections of the film through Lucy's writings.

The casting is perfect, with excellent performances from the entire ensemble. Tyler exudes a raw yet innocent sensuality, embodying her role fully, while her costars each play their part in exposing her story and character. Jeremy Irons conveys the hopeless optimism of a man enjoying his last frivolity before his demise, envisioning the world through the eyes of this young girl with her whole life experience ahead of her. Donal McCann (Ian) and Sinéad Cusack (Diane) offer a mature reflection on the young woman's burgeoning sexuality, while D.W. Moffett, who plays Rachel Weisz' slimy boyfriend, adds great comic relief in his hapless, and none too discrete, pursuit of Lucy.

While elements in the content will be offensive to some, the luscious visuals and cool sensuality make this a feast for the senses, and the appropriate musical inclusions by Liz Phair, Issac Hayes, Hole, the Fine Young Cannibals, and the Cocteau Twins punctuate the insuppressible emotions and confused vulnerabilities of a young woman opening the door to sexuality, as the eyes of her eclectic spectators witness and revel in the anticipation of her journey.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Stealing Beauty is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. Bertolucci's palette is always deep, and colors here are rich and earthy, with vibrant greens and solid fleshtones. Black levels are solid, and there are no signs of edge enhancement. There are a couple of places where aliasing is evident, and there is the odd speck here and there, but for the most part this looks simply luscious.

The presentation on our screener copy has one fatal flaw—none of the foreign language segments are translated in English, missing crucial plot points and character development. It appears that both the English caption track and the Spanish subtitles were both done to a print with the translations burned in, as the English drops out for these parts, and the Spanish subs are relocated to the top of the frame. Hopefully this will be fixed in the retail version.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Another upgrade from the laserdisc version is a new 5.1-channel mix, which is available alongside a ProLogic track. The 5.1 mix is more expansive, but is still primarily forward focused, and is noticibly louder than its companion. There are no technical defects in the track, dialogue is clear and with a couple of minor exceptions, very legible. It may not be quite as warm sounding as the laserdisc, but has its own strengths in delivering a solid presentation of the film's musical soundtrack.

The packaging indicates a French track that is not on the disc.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
10 Other Trailer(s) featuring Drive Me Crazy, Ever After, French Kiss, Love Potion #9, Never Been Kissed, Object Of My Affection, Romeo + Juliet, Say It Isn't So, Someone Like You, Where The Heart Is
3 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: There is a nice selection of supplements here, though none are really groundbreaking. A 07m:07s featurette covers the typical on set interviews with the cast and crew, but there is a lack of any text indicating who non-actor participants are. The quality here is pretty marginal, but still better than nothing.

Along with the international trailer are a set of three TV spots, running 20 seconds each.

There is a collection of ten trailers for other Fox releases including Drive Me Crazy, Ever After, French Kiss, Love Potion #9, Never Been Kissed, Object Of My Affection, Romeo + Juliet, Say It Isn't So, Someone Like You and Where The Heart Is.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

With its gorgeous visuals, and seductive storytelling, Stealing Beauty immerses the viewer in the richness and expectations of young summer love. Luxurient in detail, repeated viewings unearth the subtleties overlooked at first glance, which deepen the appreciation of the film's rewards. This remains one of my favorite films.

The extras add some collector's value, but the exclusion of the translated subtitles tempers the recommendation until this unfortunate oversight is remedied.

 


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