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Sunshine DVD

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This sprawling family saga follows a Hungarian-Jewish family across three generations, and stars Ralph Fiennes as the father, the son, and the grandson in three distinctly different roles. As a Europudding vehicle for Fiennes and a top-drawer cast (including Jennifer Ehle, Rachel Weisz, Deborah Unger, Miriam Margolyes and William Hurt), Sunshine delivers on all fronts: there's glossy melodrama, high-moral seriousness as history wears the family down like the wind, and leitmotifs--the family elixir called "Sunshine" that founds their fortune, semi-incestuous adulterous liaisons, photographs and faces--that thread the epic three-hour narrative together. Fiennes begins as a stiff Budapest lawyer-cum-officer and judge during the First World War, torn when anti-Semitism raises its head. His son is a champion fencer who denounces the family faith to attain advancement but ends up in the Nazi-run labour camps all the same. The last in the line, a policeman this time, must navigate the Stalinist forces of repression and endures through the 1956 uprising to take back the family name and faith. And yet as a film by director István Szabó (Colonel Redl, Mephisto), it's a bit of a soggy disappointment lacking the bile and spit and visual inventiveness that makes the best of his other works so outstanding. Perhaps the fact that Szabó is directing an all-English speaking cast is the problem, leaving the film feeling strangely old-fashioned and paradoxically lacking a sense of place (despite much of it being filmed in Hungary itself). Although there are some charged emotional beats throughout, pretty costumes, and lots of entertainingly tasteful bonking sequences, the fencing sequences in particular become tooth-pullingly tedious and the whole thing seems to drag, especially as it takes itself so seriously. --Leslie Felperin

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Ralph Fiennes stars in Istvan Szabo's award-winning story of a Jewish family's rise from poverty to riches and power in the fraying Austro-Hungarian Empire. Spanning over three generations, the story shows the family being left betrayed and powerless whilst trying to come to terms with major events of the 20th century, notably the Holocaust.

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