Radiance Films adds director Luigi Comencini’s murder mystery comedy “The Sunday Woman (La donna della domenica)” to their burgeoning collection of restorations.

Comedy is tragedy plus time.

– Author Mark Twain

Though Edgar Allen Poe’s 1841 story The Murders in the Rue Morgue is widely considered the first detective story, there’s a long standing relationship between murder and storytelling. Whether in dramatics like William Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex or comedies like Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap or Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, murder is the thing that catches the attention of the audience. In recent years, there’s been a delightful resurgence of murder mystery films like the 2017 remake of Murder on the Orient Express, 2019’s Knives Out, and 2022’s See How They Run. Thanks to the latest Radiance Films restoration, modern audiences clamoring for more can just hop back to the mid-1970s to check out director Luigi Comencini’s murder/class comedy The Sunday Woman (La donna della domenica), beautifully restored in 2K with a small gathering of archived and brand-new materials.

In a small Italian town, a body is discovered, the weapon laying by its side, and a witness who can describe the perpetrator. Even with all of this information, Commissioner Salvatore Santamaria (Marcello Mastroianni) and his team struggle to narrow down who the culprit may be as the victim is widely known as a notorious pervert, unliked by many. Making matters worse, the first two implicated in the crime, high society members Anna Carla Dosio and Massimo Campi (Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Louis Trintignant), are all too delighted to be suspects, especially Anna, who sees it as an opportunity to play detective and relieve her boredom. Each time Santamaria finds a break, some new wrinkle appears, some new controversy to be avoided is revealed, as his boss wants the case closed quickly and without upsetting any in the upper class, which only adds fuel to the fire.

Upon reading the premise for The Sunday Woman, one may presume that Comencini’s originally broadcasted on television murder mystery might be a drab, slow-moving whodunit as a steadfast officer tries to navigate social hierarchies, uncover secrets, and try to get ahead of the killer. Instead, the film zips along, taking its time as necessary to divulge confidences, plant misdirects, and ensure that the audience need only track the players rather than play a shell game. If there is something to get used to as an American viewer, it’s that the film just begins, thrusting us, without warning, into Anna’s home, where she sits listening to someone we later learn is her husband, all the while her internal monologue is one of frustration and distraction. Through her, we’re introduced to two individuals who work for her whom she dislikes (important post-murder) before she sets about writing about some person she wants to murder. At that moment, we get to see this person, Claudio Gora’s Garrone, who hits on, peaks at, and is otherwise sexually abrasive to just about every woman he comes into contact with, all the way up until his murder. With this individual as a through line, writers Furio Scarpelli (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and Agenore Incrocci (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), from a story by Franco Lucentini (A che punto è la notte) and Carlo Fruttero (A che punto è la notte), introduce everyone else who will be important to the story that follows — every person who Garrone knows and pisses off through his regular abhorrent behavior. What’s enjoyable about the whole of Sunday Woman is how the script fashions itself post-murder with Santamaria being far more clever than everyone seems to think, that the first two suspects are cleared (as far as the audience is concerned), and that there’s a playfulness to the way in which everyone who tries to get involved in solving the murder is handled or addressed by the actual police on the case.

For the most part, the officers seem ok with the involvement, but in a manner which suggests that they have little choice or have experienced what happens when they try to push back against the wealthier suspects. The indulgence that Santamaria offers cuts into some of the subtext of the film as it relates to class and position. Upon learning from Massimo that he and she are suspects, Anna doesn’t panic or cry out, she laughs as though this is an incredible entertainment. The mere fact that she’s even being considered as having murdered Garrone doesn’t faze her, as though the notion that she could actually go to prison, innocent or not, never crosses her mind. For his part, Santamaria never pushes or pressures either Massimo or Anna; rather, he engages them respectfully, willingly keep their secrets as a means of getting closer to catching the culprit. It would be easy to see Santamaria as a push-over when viewed only through this lens, yet if one pays close attention, his words and deeds are very specific, as are those of his team (even when they do things that are silly in the moment). There’s intentionality to what Santamaria does and what he tells Massimo and Anna as suspects/corroborators, using them to learn more than he would if he kept them at arm’s length. I’m not sure I would add Santamaria to the list of famed detectives like Sherlock, Hercule Poirot, or (my new favorite cinematic detective) Benoit Blanc in terms of aptitude, but Mastroianni plays the character as someone with dimension, as well as emotional intelligence, which makes him formidable while appearing soft. This becomes especially important as it’s clear, mostly for Anna, that discovering the identity of the killer isn’t about justice for the murder of someone she knows or clearing her name, but as something to pass the time. It’s a distraction from her life, something to dip her toe in, versus the very real danger and trouble that Santamaria and his officers face daily. As the film navigates the class divide between those in the upper echelon and the blue collar, Santamaria is a bridge between, walking between worlds so that he can sniff out the truth from unending bullshit.

In a typical home release review, especially a restoration, I would offer information on the packaging, any included physical home release materials, as well as share the process of creating the print. Though a review copy was provided by MVD Entertainment Group to conduct this restoration review, it is a check disc and only comes accompanied by the film and on-disc materials. According to the press release and official release sites, the retail edition does include a limited edition 24-page booklet with a new essay from Mariangela Sansone, as well as a reprint of an archival piece on the film. Additionally, this limited edition (only 2000 copies) includes a Scanavo-developed package with removable OBI strip (a small paper piece that goes over the spine and part of the front & back detailing the release information) and a reversible cover, allowing owners to pick from one of two art designs. The materials also indicate that the 2K restoration was made from the original negative, though it does not indicate if the original uncompressed mono audio track comes from the same source.

Be advised: purchasing directly from Radiance Films will result in a Region B edition, while purchasing from a supplier like MVD Entertainment Group or DiabolikDVD will allow viewers in Region A to play the film in their native disc players.

Before jumping into the restoration itself, be advised that there are two available versions of the film on-disc to select from before viewing: the original 1.33:1 (television ratio) or a 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. This only matters because the feature broadcasted on television, so viewing it as it originally played requires 1.33:1. However, it appears that Comencini’s was a forward-thinker and shot the film in 1.85:1, enabling this restoration to offer a more proper cinematic home viewing experience. For the purposes of this first-time watch and restoration review, the widescreen edition was selected.

Again, I can’t speak to the restoration process itself, but the results speak for themselves. The film looks and sounds great. Yes, it’s a mono audio mix, but everything still comes through my 5.1 surround stereo well where I could set the volume and leave it. There may not be an audible balance, but everything is clear and clean when it comes through. The same for the video portion as there’s minimal visible grain, color tone appears balanced for skin, and warm in the surrounding areas (beautifully capturing cinemtographer Luciano Tovoli’s (Suspiria/Titus) work. Perhaps it’s coming from the U.S., but when I think of something produced for broadcast on television, it doesn’t look near this good, lush, and alive (even for a murder mystery).

Regarding the bonus features, owners of The Sunday Woman are treated to four pieces of on-disc material (two new, two archived) that total roughly 80 minutes in length. The archived pieces are a four-minute French TV interview with actor Jean-Louis Trintignant from 1976 and a 22-minute interview with Tovoli from 2008. For the new, there’s an 18-minute featurette with academic and Italian cinema expert Richard Dyer who offers a rather illustrative deep dive into the film, offering context on its release, the unusual presentation of Gora’s pervert Garrone (ex. Italian stories regularly used some of Garrone’s antics to make someone look charming), and generally offering thoughts on the film itself. Especially with murder mysteries undergoing a quiet resurgence in cinema, Dyer provides a contextual look into the film that provides several engaging nuggets regarding the general view of sexuality (a major interpersonal issue in the film), as well as why the film is titled as it is. The twice as long interview with academic and screenwriter Giacomo Scarpelli (The Postman/The Dinner) invites audiences to learn about the work of Giacomo’s father Furio, who co-wrote the script for The Sunday Woman, as well as discussing the partnership between Furio and Agenore Incrocci, the other screenwriter for the film. Being that Gicacomo is a writer himself, he’s able to offer a rather unique perspective on his father’s work and the industry.

When researching murder mysteries for modern release reviews, The Sunday Woman never once entered the conversation. This is odd considering the material and ideas within it do line up with both past and present cinematic tales. The nice thing about what Radiance Films does as a physical media boutique is it tracks down projects that perhaps should be in the conversation and gives them another shot to get into the discussion. For murder mystery fans or cinephiles looking for some relatively light entertainment, The Sunday Woman may just satisfy that need.

The Sunday Woman Special 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
  • Limited edition of 2000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings
  • 2K restoration of the film from the original negative, presented in the original 1.33:1 and an alternate 1.85:1 widescreen presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono PCM audio
  • Newly filmed interview with academic and Italian cinema expert Richard Dyer, who looks at The Sunday Woman (2022, 18 mins)
  • Newly filmed interview with academic and screenwriter Giacomo Scarpelli, who discusses the life and work of his father, Furio Scarpelli and his writing partner Agenore Incrocci (2022, 36 mins)
  • Archival interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli who discusses his work on the film (2008, 22 mins)
  • Archival French TV interview with Jean-Louis Trintignant in which the actor discusses The Sunday Woman (1976, 4 mins)
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring designs based on original posters

Available on Blu-ray from Radiance Films April 18th, 2023.

For more information, head to the official Radiance Films The Sunday Woman webpage.

To purchase, head to the official MVD Entertainment Group The Sunday Woman webpage.

Categories: Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews

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