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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Mad Love (2002)

"I believe you aren't in love if you aren't jealous."
- Queen Joan of Castile (Pilar López de Ayala)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: February 05, 2003

Stars: Pilar López de Ayala, Daniele Liotti, Rosana Pastor, Giuliano Gemma, Roberto Alvarez, Guillermo Tooledo Susy Sánchez
Other Stars: Manuela Arcuri, Eloy Azorin
Director: Vicente Aranda

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 01h:58m:26s
Release Date: January 21, 2003
UPC: 043396096486
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The old-fashioned historical bodice-ripper hasn't disappeared—it's just emigrated to Spain. If you're an avid or knowledgeable Spanish history buff, this isn't the movie for you, but Mad Love is full of royals doing each other dirt and having lots of romping sex—it's all very silly, actually, but it's not without its amusements.

It's 1496, just a few years after Columbus has been packed off to the New World, and his great patrons, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, are marrying off their eldest daughter, Joan. Sight unseen, she's being packed off to Flanders, to marry Philip, the Habsburg heir—it's a marriage of political convenience, but Joan hopes for more than that. Will she find true love with this well-appointed stranger?

Unlike anything you may have seen or read, this Philip is apparently from a long line of Nautilized Habsburgs, who proudly display their slate pecs—with his willowy mane of hair and his undulating eyebrows, he looks more like Fabio than a Holy Roman Emperor. It's working for Joan, though, and their union seems like a happy one, both in the bedroom and at court.

Oh, but soon there's trouble in paradise, as that damn Philip has a wandering eye. Not even Joan's wifely service—her ladies in waiting hover at the bedroom door to hear her moan in ecstasy—can keep Philip from putting the moves on anything in a dress, and he's audacious enough to install his principal mistress as one of his wife's handmaidens. It's good to be the king.

Even that's not enough for the greedy Belgian—when his mother-in-law dies, he tries to have his wife declared insane, so he and not she will ascend to the throne of Castile. (The film's Spanish title is Juana la Loca, or Joan the Mad). Joan feeds into his evil plan by becoming unhinged with jealousy, wandering around the palace screaming at the top of her lungs: "My mother is dead! My husband is unfaithful!" Much court intrigue ensues.

Is this historically accurate? Almost certainly not. More important: is it entertaining? Only intermittently. Pilar López de Ayala is lovely and not bad as Joan, but she hasn't given been much to work with, and Daniele Liotti as her husband seems to have wandered in from a Siegfried and Roy casting call. Lots of the dialogue is insipid in a soap opera kind of way—one of Philip's mistresses comments about his sexual performance, for instance: "Your bow isn't very tense today." Ooh, caliente, no? No. Perhaps nipple painting was in fact incredibly popular in early sixteenth-century Spain—you'd certainly think so from watching this movie—but even that kind of titillation isn't enough to sustain our attention for two hours.

Much of this is well made, with lush costumes and production design, but it's a warmed-over historical soap opera more than anything else. If you're hot to hear lines like "I want to love you even if you loathe me"—and really, don't we all? - then you're in luck.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The occasional pictorial imperfection shows up, but generally the transfer is a fine one—colors are deeply saturated, and the black level is rich. Much of the historical pageantry may be lost, though, if you're watching on a relatively small set.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A good strong sound mix, with fine use made of the rear channels. Dynamics are pretty steady, and hissing is at a minimum.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Son of the Bride, Talk to Her
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Subtitles, generous chaptering and a trio of trailers are all that's here.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

If you think that the problem with history movies is all that boring history, check out Mad Love, and don't worry about knowing any of this for the exam.


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