Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Blu-ray Review: THE SUNDAY WOMAN

 by Anthony King

Murder Mystery: Italian Style

Growing up there was always an Agatha Christie novel lying around. She was my mom's favorite author, and I reminisce fondly on the days when Mom would tell me about the mystery she was reading at the time. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I picked up a Christie of my own (And Then There Were None). As much as I loved the whodunnit of the story, I loved the characters that populated its pages even more. As I reflect on the novels and films I enjoy the most, I realize I love a story full of interesting characters. The Sunday Woman (1975) is Luigi Comencini's adaptation of the popular Italian novel written by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini, and its full of an assortment of characters not unlike those Agatha Christie novels that littered nightstands and coffee tables in the King house.
The film opens with a shifty-looking/acting gentleman named Garrone, an architect we later discover who seems to be up to secretive and nefarious business and is then found murdered on the floor of his studio. Marcello Mastroianni stars as Commissioner Salvatore Santamaria, the detective in charge of the case. He's thrown directly into the high society of Turin where he meets his first suspects – two friends who had written an incriminating letter. Jacqueline Bisset is Anna Carla Dosio, a wealthy and lonely wife to a philandering husband immersed in his work. Anna Carla's best friend is Massimo Campi played by the great French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant. Massimo isn't necessarily closeted, but he's not broadcasting the fact that he's gay, or the fact that he's in a relationship with Lello Riviera (Aldo Reggiani). As the suspect lists grows, so too do Santamaria's feelings for the married Anna Carla.

It is then revealed that Garrone was bludgeoned to death with a sizable stone penis. As if this wasn't bizarre enough, Santamaria and his squad are assigned to busting a sex party being held at the house of Grinchy older woman and her mousy daughter. The architect, it turns out, was working with the older woman in order to sell her crumbling villa to land developers with the promise of a sizable payout. As Santamaria navigates the convoluted murder mystery that introduces new characters every other scene, it becomes clear to the viewer that the detective story is running parallel in importance to the examination of the drastic class divide between the upper crust Piedmontese and the lower class Turinos and Sicilians.
The Sunday Woman is a gorgeously photographed, superbly acted, sneakily hysterical, and intriguing murder mystery that can stand up to any of its Anglo-Saxon counterparts. While Mastroianni is well known for his work in Italian classics like 8 ½ (1963), La Dolce Vita (1960), and La Notte (1961), he treats his performance in this lesser-known crime-comedy with no less vigor and flair he dedicates to his most well-known roles. His charm is soul-melting and his unspoken comedic moments are inspiring. Jacqueline Bisset was no stranger to the murder mystery, having appeared in Sidney Lumet's adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express the year before. While Miss Bisset's filmography veers more into the outskirts of genre territory than Mastroianni, she meets the role of Anna Carla Dosio with as much panache and glamour as one would expect from one of the most beautiful people to have ever graced the screen. Like his on-screen bestie, Jean-Louis Trintignant has dabbled (quite heavily it seems) in genre fare. From the titular character in Sergio Carbucci's The Great Silence (1968) to the prostitute-killing chicken farmer in Giulio Questi's Death Laid an Egg (1968), Trintignant is no stranger to the thriller. Here he's not out for revenge or killing sex workers, but his air of mystery is one that kept me on pins and needles the whole time. It wasn't till the final reveal of the true killer that I was able to breathe a solid breath.
Once again, Radiance Films shines a spotlight on a near-totally forgotten film (or one that I'd never even heard of, for that matter). With the option to view in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio (as requested by the producers to be included on the disc) or the wider 1.85:1 (which was kept in mind when filming by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli), both versions are crystal clear, presenting scenes from around Turin with breathtaking color. Four interviews accompany this release; two archival, and two shot specifically for this release. The 2008 interview with cinematographer Tovoli is full of insight into his history working on films like Suspria (1977) and The Passenger (1975), his tumultuous-at-first relationship with director Comencini, and wonderful insights into the process of working with natural light as opposed to fixed lighting. The other highlight is Richard Dyer's relaxed appreciation of The Sunday Woman. He explores the history of the novel, the themes of sex and social divide in the film, and the careers of the film's stars.

While Kenneth Branagh is updating Agatha Christie's classics and Rian Johnson delivers modern twists on detective fiction, forgotten gems like The Sunday Woman are out there, ripe for discovery. And thanks to fine work from the people at Radiance, we're treated to a beautiful presentation of this soon-to-be lauded murder mystery.

Blu-ray release date: May 2, 2023
109 minutes / 1975
1.33:1 / 1.85:1
PCM Mono (Italian)
Subtitles: English (SDH)

Bonus Features:
Limited edition 24-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mariangela Sansone and a reprint of an archival piece on the film Archival French TV interview with Jean-Louis Trintignant (1976, 4 min.)
Interview with academic and Italian cinema expert Richard Dyer (2022, 18 min.)
Archival interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (2008, 22 min.)
Interview with academic and screenwriter Giacomo Scarpelli, son of The Sunday Woman co-screenwriter Furio Scarpelli (36 min.)
Reversible sleeve featuring designs based on original posters Removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings


  1. Should i just give my wallet right now? Because if you start doing blu-ray reviews like that, i will go bankrupt

    Also, please continue making blu-ray reviews

  2. That definitely is a great cast. I have appreciated Trintignant and Mastroianni for a long time, but it is only in the past few years that I have become acquainted with Jacqueline Bisset's filmography. For TCM's Summer Under The Stars programming last August, there was a day dedicated to her. Even in the obscure films from the beginning of her career, Bisset showed that she had acting range..