Misunderstood

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Synopsis

John Duncombe, the British consul in Florence, returns home from his wife’s funeral to his two children, who are unaware of their mother’s passing. He makes the decision to tell his eldest son, Andrea, but hides the truth from his sickly younger son, Milo. Director Luigi Comenicini (The Sunday Woman) captures the innocence and carefree moments of youth alongside the agonising feelings of grief, creating one of the finest films about childhood, one which can stand alongside The 400 BlowsThe Spirit of the Beehive and L'enfance nue. A Palme d’Or nominee at the Cannes Film Festival and recipient of multiple awards from Italian institutions, Misunderstood features remarkable performances from the children and from Anthony Quayle (Lawrence of Arabia) as Duncombe.

Picture 8/10

Radiance presents Luigi Comencini’s Misunderstood on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a new 2K restoration, scanned from the original negative.

The source print still looks rough around the edges, with mild scratches (heavier during transitions), stains, and slight fluctuations. Still, outside of those minor flaws, the presentation looks excellent. It’s sharp and stable, effortlessly rendering grain and finer details without any digital artifacts sneaking in.

The colors look fine, though they may lean a bit towards the green-yellow end of things, making things look a little washed as a consequence. However, it's not all that heavy and doesn’t impact black levels, with the range in the shadows being relatively wide. In the end it all comes together to deliver a lovely film appearance.

Audio 6/10

The Italian soundtrack can be flat, with background noise sneaking in there. Still, there are no signs of heavy damage, and everything sounds sharp and clear.

Extras 6/10

Radiance creates one new disc supplement for their edition of the film, a 25-minute visual essay by David Cairns entitled A Child’s Heart, which examines director Luigi Comencini’s career, though focusing on his work exploring childhood. Much of the essay discusses Misunderstood, its story, and its characters (I chuckled a bit when he likened Milo, the younger brother at the root of most of the problems in the film, to Damien from The Omen), relating these elements to some of this other work. The rest of the feature is spent examining those other works before and after before touching on the film’s success and fans, which included Truffaut.

Including the 3-minute trailer, the remaining features are archival, appearing to have been produced for previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. This includes a 24-minute interview with Michel Ciment, recorded in 2021, where the film critic talks about the director’s early life and career, Misunderstood, and possible reasons as to why Comencini is not better known today. There’s also what could be considered a making-of-piece featuring interviews with the filmmaker’s daughter, Cristina Comencini, alongside co-screenwriter Piero De Bernardi. Featuring the two sitting together on a couch recalling the production, it proves to be both funny and informative. There’s discussion around the motivations behind doing the film (Comencini, joking or not, suggesting it was so her father could afford a seaside house) and stories from the production, but the most invaluable bits of information around the adaptation of the source novel, the two explaining how the story was altered to better fit her father’s sensibilities. They both think the film is excellent, but it was funny to hear both say they found the film’s final shot “a bit much.” Quite good and a breezy 35 minutes.

Radiance also includes a 31-page booklet, limited to the first printing, featuring an essay by Manuela Lazic on the film’s place alongside other “troubled youth” films. It also closes with a reprint of a 1978 interview with Comencini.

It's not a stacked edition, but I still found the material did a decent job exploring the film’s background and its place in the filmmaker’s work.

Closing

A good presentation and decent features make this another solid edition from Radiance.

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Directed by: Luigi Comencini
Year: 1966
Time: 104 min.
 
Series: Radiance Films
Edition #: 51
Release Date: April 29 2024
MSRP: £14.99
 
Blu-ray
1 Disc | BD-50
1.85:1 ratio
Italian 2.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B
 
 Interview with co-screenwriter Piero De Bernardi and Cristina Comenicini, the director’s daughter and herself a noted filmmaker (2008, 36 mins)   Interview with legendary critic Michel Ciment (2021, 24 mins)   A Child’s Heart - a visual essay by David Cairns on Comencini and the filmmaker’s affinity for childhood stories (2023, 25 mins)   Trailer   Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by critic Manuela Lazic and a newly translated archival interview with Luigi Comencini