Latest Review – Cinema Paradiso: 25th Anniversary Remastered Edition (Blu-ray) (Arrow Films)

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Cinema Paradiso: 25th Anniversary Remastered Edition (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)

Arrow Films / Giuseppe Tornatore / 1988 / Italy

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 124 minutes (2:03:50) (Theatrical Version) / 174 minutes (2:53:31) (Director’s Cut Version)

Region Code: Region B

Rating: 15

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

Video: 1080p High Definition

Codec: AVC

Image: Colour

Audio: Italian LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/24bit) (2.3 Mbps) / Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48 kHz) (2.2 Mbps) / English Dolby Digital 2.0 (48kHz) (192Kbps) (Commentary Track) (Theatrical Version Only)

Language: Italian (main) / English / Portuguese / Sicilian

Subtitles: Optional English (on/off)

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A deserved winner of the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Grand Prix du Jury at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival, the 1989 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a total of five awards at the 1991 BAFTA Awards, Giuseppe Tornatore’s sublime homage to the cinema, and only his second feature film, has rightly grown to be acclaimed as one of the finest and most affectionately constructed cinematic gems of the last twenty-five years, and now, a quarter of a century on from its original theatrical release, has been fully restored and remastered from the original camera negative for Arrow Films’ ‘ultimate’ new Blu-ray edition release.

1980. Rome. The successful Italian film director, Salvatore ‘Toto’ Di Vita, returns to his home village of Giancaldo, Sicily for the funeral of his old friend, Alfredo, who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. As he returns to the old haunts, and as his girlfriend begins to ask him who the mysterious ‘Alfredo’ was, Salvatore flashes back to his childhood in a post-war Italy, and soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high, lows and passions that would shape his adult life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.

For what forms almost the entire first hour of the film, the action concerns itself with Salvatore’s childhood years, firmly establishing both his newly discovered love of the cinema and his growing relationship and deep friendship with the father-like Alfredo, whilst his relationship at home with his own mother grows increasingly more fraught in the wake of his father’s absence at war, before a clever visual device instantly advances the film a decade and introduces us to the now adolescent Toto.

Upon its original Italian release the film ran to a total of 155 minutes (2:35:00), however due to a poor box office performance in its native country the film was withdrawn and cut considerably, to a more manageable length of 123 minutes, for its international release which subsequently became an instant success, and it is this theatrical release which garnered the film’s numerous awards and widespread acclaim.

In 2002, film audiences saw the release of a third cut of the film, the arguably superior extended ‘Director’s Cut’, which runs at a fairly lengthy 174 minutes and incorporates a good deal more of Salvatore’s back-story, effectively expanding on his relationship with Elena and incorporating a moving scene in which the pair reunite after a lengthy separation, adding both a greater sense of dimension and thematic depth to the overall piece.

Not only does Giuseppe Tornatore prove himself as a director of great quality and vision, he also ascertains himself as a master storyteller and fine screenwriter, charting Salvatore’s coming of age tale with great skill and fine attention to detail, suitably evoking a strong emotional response from the audience and beautifully balancing moments of humour and pathos; Tornatore deservedly picked up the BAFTA film award for Best Original Screenplay for his work.

Of course in watching the film, one of the the great joys for any true cinephile is in both identifying all the films screened at the eponymous Cinema Paradiso, from Jean Renoir’s ‘Les bas-fonds’ (‘The Lower Depths) (1936) to Luchino Visconti’s groundbreaking Neo-realist drama ‘La Terra Trema’ (1948) and Mario Mattoli’s now rarely-seen musical comedy ‘I pompieri di Viggiù’ (‘The Firemen of Viggiu’) (1949), and picking up on all the various quotes and subtle cinematic references weaved throughout the film.

Performances across the board are quite superb, from Philippe Noiret’s impeccably judged, BAFTA Award-winning perfomance as Alfredo, to Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi and Jacques Perrin’s respective performances as the child, adolescent and adult incarnations of Salvatore, with the BAFTA Award-winning Cascio (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) delivering one of the most memorable child performances in cinema as the wide-eyed young Toto.

Lensed by cinematographer Blasco Giurato, Cinema Paradiso proves quite the visual treat, perfectly capturing the alluring quality of the tonal Sicilian vistas, carefully observing how life within the village has evolved over the course of the film and cleverly juxtaposing the magic-realist quality of the cinema with the Neo-realist tones of contemporary Italian society with his own beautifully composed original photography.

Ennio Morricone’s beautifully orchestrated, string-heavy score is a work of both great beauty and emotional power, accompanying the visuals with stirring effect, and the fact that he was overlooked for an Academy Award-nomination for his composition is a great travesty; not to mention the fact that the film received only a single Academy Award nomination – but then again, what do awards matter?

Shot on location in director Tornatore’s hometown of Bagheria, Sicily, as well as Cefalù on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Cinema Paradiso proves an incredibly personal, powerful and affecting examination of friendship, love and cinema, and often described as a work of ‘nostalgic postmodernism’, beautifully combines sentimentality, humour and pathos with a reflective and profound, generation-spanning coming of age tale to deliver what is without doubt one of cinema’s greatest and most passionate celebrations of film, perfectly capturing the true essence of cinema and the endearing magical quality of movie-watching.

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Image Quality and Restoration Details: TBC

Of the two audio options offered on the disc, I would argue that the original uncompressed Italian LPCM 2.0 stereo mix is certainly the stronger of the two as the Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 can often sound a little unbalanced and slightly affected.

The LPCM 2.0 audio mix is in great condition, presenting crisp, clean and stable dialogue, effective dynamics, a superb presentation of Morricone’s score and overall just a much more natural and authentic audio presentation, with no signs of any distortion, pops, cracks, hiss or audio dropouts.

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Special Features:

Disc One:

A Dream of Sicily – A 55-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 (0:54:47)

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 (0:27:28)

The Kissing Sequence – Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene (0:07:03)

25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer (0:01:42)

Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert and critic Millicent Marcus

Disc Two:

Original Director’s Cut Theatrical Trailer (0:01:22)

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Release Date: 16 December, 2013

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