Cinema Paradiso (US - BD RA)
Jonathan had updated the review with some DVD comparison caps..
Cinema Paradiso is the beautiful, enchanting story of a young boy's lifelong love affair with the movies. Set in an Italian village, Salvatore finds himself enchanted by the flickering images at the Cinema Paradiso, yearning for the secret of the cinema's magic. When the projectionist, Alfredo, agrees to reveal the mysteries of moviemaking, a deep friendship is born. The day comes for Salvatore to leave the village and pursue his dream of making movies of his own. Thirty years later he receives a message that beckons him back to a secret, beautiful discovery that awaits him. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)
The first thing that I should establish is that this is the international cut of Cinema Paradiso. This is the 121 minute version that won the Grand Prix at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and took home Best Foreign Language Film in the 1990 Academy Awards. The original director's cut was 155 minutes, and there is a 173 minute extended cut (cleverly titled "The New Version") out there too. While the extended cuts fill in some of the gaps of the story, I prefer the pacing and focus of the international cut that is on this Blu-ray. For those that have not seen the film, I recommend starting here. This is one of those rare cases where the cut version is objectively superior to the director's vision, but fans and purists should take the time to watch both. Cinema Paradiso is filled with hilarious childish antics, endearing characters, and to this day it remains one of the most romantic views of cinema that has ever been committed to celluloid. This is in no small part due to Ennio Morricone's delightful score. It is one of those soundtracks that you've likely heard in many other movies and television shows without realizing it. It drives the emotional impact of the movie home, while the terrific performances from the main characters don't miss a beat.
There's a real sense of community to village that the Cinema Paradiso occupies. You gain a familiarity with the cinema's patrons, and this allows for the slapstick jokes to really hit the mark. For example there's the snobby man on the balcony who always spits on the people below him, until one day the favor is returned in the form of a used diaper. A Catholic priest censors kisses out of films, which is often met with a booing crowd. When the theater gets new ownership and a kiss occurs on the screen, the audience goes wild with joy and the place all but turns into a full on brothel. Tornatore's displays a sense of humour not unlike the type Fedrico Fellini showed in Amarcord, which is very much a good thing. It pokes fun at censorship, authority and class disparity, while demonstrating that the power of cinema can bring people together from many different backgrounds.
Around the halfway mark, things take a darker turn. After tragedy strikes at the cinema, Salvatore grows up and his adolescent nonsense is replaced by an interest in a young woman named Elena. This section of the film isn't as engrossing or memorable as what comes before it, and part of the reason I prefer this version of the film is because the longer cuts devote more time to this romantic subplot. The movie possesses some truly saddening moments (which I won't spoil), it always keeps its wits about it. When coupled with the heartwarming relationship between Alfredo and Salvatore (which is fatally minimized in the other versions of the film), the result is a captivating and memorable love letter to cinema. There are wonderful images and scenes in Cinema Paradiso that stick with the viewer long after viewing, and lovers of film owe it to themselves to see this classic.
This 1080p transfer from Lionsgate is kept in it's original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and looks pretty good for the most part. The age and film quality will never make for a pristine, flawless picture, but detail is significantly better than the old Miramax DVD. Colours are a slightly muted compared to modern movies, but tones look very natural. Black levels are relatively good. Much like the Lionsgate Blu-ray of Life is Beautiful, the picture takes on more of a fuzzy appearance than a grainy, filmic one. This leads to some odd colour blotches from time to time that are much more distracting in stills than they are when the video is in motion. There is occasionally some oppressive blocking that is most noticeable in the sky. This could be the result of some edge enhancement, but most of the movie is free from the effect. Overall though, the transfer is good and should satisfy fans given the generous price tag. It's certainly a better job than most Miramax catalogue titles are getting in the UK.
This monaural track from Lionsgate sounds more or less the same as it did on DVD. Given the low-fi sound design that went into making Cinema Paradiso, this isn't really a fault with track itself. Ennio Morricone's beautiful score sounds aged like the rest of the soundtrack, but it is still very moving. Without completely reengineering the sound mix, this is likely the best this film will sound. Cinema Paradiso, like many older Italian films, has a lot of dubbed dialogue. It is often distracting, but those who have seen many Italian movies from this era are likely to be used to it. Everything from dialogue to music is kept to the front and center speakers, so there aren't any surround effects or dynamic touches to mention.
Only a theatrical trailer.
Anybody with a romantic view of cinema should make Cinema Paradiso a must-see. Perhaps one day this deserving film will get a remastered 4K resolution print and a Blu-ray release with ample special features (let me dream), but for now this is an acceptable release with great value. It is only $10 on Amazon at the time of this review. There are no extras aside from a trailer, but the video transfer is a definite improvement, and the monaural audio track sounds as good as ever. If you already consider yourself a fan, and don't strongly prefer the longer cuts of the film, this is an easy recommendation.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and DVD release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 4th October 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Italian
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Cast: Philippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale, Antonella Attili
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 121 minutes
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