Cinema Paradiso (UK - BD RB)
Marcus sits back in a darkened room and enjoys the magic of cinema on BD
Receiving a message from his mother about the passing of an old friend, Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) remembers his childhood and the time he spent in his small Sicilian village of Giancaldo, or more importantly, the time he spent in the Cinema Paradiso.
Young Salavatore (or ‘Toto’ to the village) developed a friendship with cinema projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) and through him discovered a love for cinema as well as the small community’s passion for it. The story gives us an insight into Toto’s youth and his reasons for leaving the small village, but with the passing of Alfredo it finally becomes time to go back and visit the place he left behind so long ago.
I’d seen Cinema Paradiso once. Once, when I was a teen, and while I enjoyed it, being a teen I had bigger and brighter things to cram into my movie loving appetite. Frankly as much as I enjoyed Cinema Paradiso, I honestly have to say in hindsight, its utter gloriousness passed me by. Watching it again now was a delight. Everything about it triggered that perfect cinema emotional reaction. The heartfelt moments between friends and their blossoming, unbreakable bond, the romantic view of cinema and its bringing together of the community, the heartbreak in visiting Toto’s home town and the utterly perfect moment of discovering what Alfredo’s parting gift to him was. All absolutely everything that I adore about what a truly great movie can achieve.
It’s hard to believe that Cinema Paradiso is only twenty one years old. This movie feels absolutely timeless and to say that it arrived the same year as things like Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Rain Man seems absolutely insane. You could have told me this was made in the seventies, hell even the late sixties, and I probably would have just gone with it. It just has a quality that feels so much richer than movies of the late eighties era and its subtle approach to the story is so refreshing. Also weirdly, I adore its imperfections. Things like much of the dialogue being re-recorded in post, causing some lip-sync issues or some of the over acting from characters to emphasise their quirks. All of this is plain as day but somehow the whole experience feel greater for it.
Cinema Paradiso is a movie that invites you in, lets you get to know it and hits you with the genuine feeling that you’ve experienced a life. With all of its subtleness, its wonderful characters, its personal score (more on that later) and its love affair with the cinema, I felt in like I’d watched something special and with an ending so perfectly orchestrated it just puts a smile on my face thinking about it, this is truly a movie I’d regard as a classic.
Despite the well presented striking reds and the warm blue Italian skyline, Cinema Paradiso isn’t exactly a fine specimen of high definition movie watching. It’s fairly light on grain, but it probably has the most dirt I’ve ever seen on a Blu-ray transfer. While it's nothing that ruins the overall effect, the odd white and black flecks that pop up quite constantly are certainly worth mentioning.
In addition to this, some scenes can be very inconsistent in regards to quality. One moment you’re happy in a fairly well detailed scene with two characters bathed in bright, warm sunlight shining down on them and then it suddenly becomes grubby, deep in shadowing and positively standard definition. This is nothing I’d consider frequent but in the handful of scenes when it occurs you certainly won’t miss it.
Generally though this is a nice transfer, albeit an inconsistent one. Not having seen Cinema Paradiso on DVD, it’s hard to say just how much of an improvement this is but it’s hard to imagine there’s much of a challenge from the old format when the scenes that work well here are at their best.
For a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, this lives almost completely in the front speakers with the rears only used for the resonance of a ringing bell or filling out the stronger elements of the score. Ennio Morricone provides such a key ingredient to the emotional pull of Cinema Paradiso and while his score can sometimes feel confined within the track, there are moments where everything about the movie is working because of its overwhelming musical charm. It’s not a score I immediately loved (especially with the opening piece) but by movies end, it’s an absolute blinder.
As I mentioned before, there are plenty of lip sync issues here but if memory serves, it’s always been the case with the movie (please correct me if I’m wrong in the comments below—it’s been a while since I last saw it after all), but generally dialogue is clear and strong and while not that wide spread, does well in its front speaker home.
‘A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise’ (27:24 SD) looks at the director's fascination with cinema as a child and the experiences that led him to the making of Cinema Paradiso. The cast interviews here and the stories about the making of the movie make this a nice companion piece to the movie.
‘The Kissing Sequence’ (07:00 SD) is in the same style as the previous featuette and looks exclusively at the kissing sequence in the movie and the history of its conception. There’s a great story about Fellini and his almost involvement in the scene and plenty of that score again. Also, as a nice touch, the scene plays out with a listing of the films featured in the combination of movie kisses.
The trailer (01:28 SD) is for the extended version of the film (which isn’t on the disc oddly), plus there’s a photo galley and then as a final slice of goodness, the entire twenty-three track Ennio Morricone score is available for your listening pleasure and all set to images from the movie.
Cinema Paradiso is a masterpiece. There’s no wriggle room in that sentence—no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ to it, it’s just a straight forward statement that sums up exactly what Cinema Paradiso is with a full stop at the end to seal the deal. This movie essentially has it all. It’s layered with fantastic little stories within a beautifully rewarding main plot. It’s got characters who feel real, without losing any cinematic charm and frankly (and this is a direct quote from my wife after watching it) ‘movies are gonna suck for the next few months’ because of greatness of Cinema Paradiso.
Disc wise, it’s not quite as impressive despite having a certain charm to its limitations, but it does come with a nice batch of extras to celebrate the movie's greatness, so overall an easy recommendation from me.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 7th September 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Italian, Dolby Stero 2.0 Italian
Extras: Documentary, Trailer, Score, Photo Gallery, Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Marco Leonardi, Philippe Noiret
Length: 124 minutes
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