Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray Review
A movie that's made for movie lovers, it effortlessly captures the imagination
A Note to the Reader: This review focusses on the UK 2 Disc Blu-ray release which contains both the Theatrical Version (118min) and the Director's Cut (167min) of the movie. I have included a brief description of the difference between the two at the foot of the movie review that contains no spoilers. The discs reviewed were content complete check discs but did not contain final packaging.
Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray ReviewCinema Paradiso remains one of the inescapable must see movies of the 20th century. Though often something of a marmite classic, even if the arguably disproportionate level of sentimentalism is not to your taste, it's virtually impossible to dismiss the potent cocktail of love, passion and sadness that Giuseppe Tornatore expertly creates.
The tale is the impromptu memoir of a successful film maker in Italy who, upon hearing the news of a loved one having passed away, takes us on a blissfully nostalgic journey through his youth. His love for cinema prevalent through his early years is clear as we watch the cheeky little scamp help Alfredo (Phillipe Noiret), the local projectionist, to operate the giant projector and screen movies to the small town's eager population.
Its not until he becomes a young man that his love for cinema is paralleled when a beautiful girl, Elena (Agnese Nano) arrives in the small rural town in Sicily. Utterly besotted with her beauty, thus begins the slow and torturous crumbling of Toto's small and perfectly formed world. We watch, captivated and helpless as a young boy's almost fairy-tale life begins to morph into something much more recognisable and sadly much more realistic. A movie that's made for movie lovers, Tornatore captures the imagination effortlessly and despite getting caught up in the sentimentality a little manages to deliver what has become an all time classic of cinema.
The extended Director's cut offers an alternative prelude to the ending that see's Salvatore's (Toto) story play out in much more detail than the original theatrical release. The sizeable chunk of additional narrative is inserted whole immediately before the movie's finale.
The fact is that the Director's cut drastically changes the whole tone of the movie. It's not that it's bad, but it's inarguably unnecessary to develop those additional parts of the story. With the Theatrical cut boasting one of the most emotional endings to a movie that I have ever seen, the Director's cut served only to dilute it's emotional potency. My advice, unless you've seen Cinema Paradiso before and know the film reasonably well, stick with the Theatrical version first and foremost – it would be a terrible shame for first time viewers to miss out on what is one of cinema's most powerful closing moments.
Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray Picture QualityArriving on Blu-ray in the UK with a lovingly restored region B locked 1.66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that is sure to please. First, a note from Arrow Films on the restoration process -
“Cinema Paradiso was exclusively restored by Arrow Films for this release. The original 35mm camera negative elements were scanned in 2k resolution at Technicolor Rome, with all grading and restoration work completed at Delux Digital Cinema – EMEA, London.
Throughout the process, care was taken to ensure that the films original texture, details and grain structure remained unaffected by digital processing. Although every effort has been made to present Cinema Paradiso in the highest quality possible, some minor picture issues remain, in keeping with the condition of the original archive materials.”
This message appears at the top of each movie and is a testament to Arrow Films' dignified approach to re-touching a classic – and the results are worth it. Right away it's clear to see that you're watching a movie with some legacy to it. The grain structure is the first thing that stands out. I know many out there profess their love for a grain-free image when it comes to HD content, but for me, this is never going to be a sticking point. Secondly, for all their efforts, Arrow and DDC were unable to remove all blemishes from the scan and there are a handful of moments where artifacting is quite noticeable, even some burn marks remain, albeit very briefly. Despite all that, The transfer is clean of any unwanted DNR or edge enhancement and bears no signs of any artifacting resulting from the restoration process itself. However if you go into a movie like this expecting the visual fidelity of a modern film release on the format, you're only fooling yourself and you'll inadvertently be disappointed. I for one embrace the blemish and grit and grain – come one come all I say, because it's an absolute fact that Cinema Paradiso has never looked as good as this. Ever.
The transfer and it's treatment is beautiful. Sure, they couldn't get rid of all the warts and blemishes, but what they have given us is nothing short of incredible. Colours are probably the most stand-out feature, with a remarkably vibrant rendering of the palette. The blue of the sky against the dusty yellow of the earth is fantastic. Blacks are authentic and rich and never once fall into the grey category. In fact, if anything I would probably say that the contrast is so strong that on occasion, shadows can seem a touch too strong and defined. Details are a bit of a mixed bag though, with some scenes looking brilliantly sharp, such as the young Toto in the square on the evening that they project the movie onto the side of a house – the fibres in his jumper and texture of his clothes are fantastic.
All in all, though it presents a few issues on the video side of things, it's one of the better remasters I've seen. You can rest easy that every care and attention has gone into this particular transfer, and that if there are problems visible, they're there because to fix them would have made it worse. That's the very definition of “faithfully restored”.
Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray Sound QualityThe audio presentation on this UK Blu-ray release is a bit of a mixed bag with it's Italian 2.0 LPCM audio track actually bettering it's Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track by a good stretch.
I began watching the movie with the surround presentation, but quickly changed to the stereo version when I realised that rather than opening out the sonic experience and adding new depth and interest to the sound, it in fact narrowed the experience somewhat, with dialogue taking on some very strange characteristics – it seems that the original dialogue channel was unavailable to the restorers as a separate track, but they've made some attempts to focus the dialogue in the centre channel (as is all too common with DTS 5.1 audio presentations these days) nevertheless, but the result is a little phasey and slightly warbly effect with some odd delays between the frontal array. Rears get a little workout, but not enough to warrant the degradation of the perceived quality on the dialogue channel.
No, the truth is that the 2.0 LPCM track is by far a better audio presentation, and is actually a much more authentic experience in the first place anyway. It's an old sounding movie, make no mistake, but even Ennio Moriconi's sentimental score feels more natural on the stereo track. In dismissing the DTS-HD audio track I found that the dynamic range was reduced somewhat, however the trade-off is worth it in my opinion. Stick with the stereo version.
Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray ExtrasAs if the beautiful restoration of the movie wasn't enough, this Arrow release comes fully loaded with plenty of additional content that is, for all fans of the movie, impossible to ignore.
- Optional English subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
- A Dream of Sicily – A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
- A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise – A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
- The Kissing Sequence – Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
- Original Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone, illustrated with original archive stills
Is Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray Worth BuyingGentle, powerful, sentimental and confident, Cinema Paradiso is one of cinema's true modern classics. Of course it's impossible to ignore the fact that, for some, Giuseppe Tornatore's penchant for badly disguised covert emotionalism is a little too much, but allowing yourself to be wrapped up by his tale most certainly yields the most enjoyment. With a handful of brilliant performances from his cast, Tornatore's timeless tale lives on for another 25 years with this faithfully restored and beautiful looking release from Arrow Films.
The 25th Anniversary edition boasts both the original theatrical version of the movie and the Director's cut. A word of warning – the original theatrical version contains what is quite possibly one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful endings to any movie – but the Director's cut, whilst perhaps more what the director wanted to do with the story, actually serves little more than to dilute the emotion of the entire movie by toying with the prelude to the ending. My advice would be that if you have never seen the movie before, stick with the theatrical version. Of course, you can't argue that having both versions is a bonus, and for those who have never seen the Director's cut, it will certainly raise some talking points.
To top it all off, this release comes bolstered with a ton of great additional content that will provide food for thought to fans of the movie, and will undoubtedly fuel many a movie-based bar-room conversation. On the whole, unmissable.
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