The Film (5/5)
Cinema Paradiso is one of cinema's greatest love letters to film itself. Director Giuseppe Tornatore through telling the story of one young boy's aging relationship with the movie theater he grew up loving, expresses true love for the cinema. In doing this Tornatore creates a film that almost all lovers of cinema as an art should be able to connect with.
The film is told primarily in flashback, and opens with the famed film director Salvatore receiving a message from his elderly Mother back in Sicily that "Alfredo" has died, and that the funeral is the next day. As he lies in bed, he begins to think about Alfredo and his past life in Sicily as a child. It turns out that Alfredo was the projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso, the small, but popular cinema in the village that Salvatore lived. Salvatore had been obsessed by the cinema and followed Alfredo everywhere wanting to be his assistant, help him run the theater, and watch the great films play out. Alfredo seemed more irritated by the young Salvatore, until one day he needed his help on an adult examination in a school, and Salvatore was able to help. From that day forward he was able to assist him in the cinema.
However, one night during a screening there was a fire, which rendered Alfredo blind, and left the cinema in ashes. A rich local resident helped rebuild, and though still very young Salvatore took over the booth. While working at the cinema, Salvatore ages into his teenage years, begins to make his own films, and falls in love. This romance changes his life, as she is from a different social standard then he, and he has to decide whether he wants to pursue her, and stay in the town, or try to make something of himself in the outside world.
Cinema Paradiso is one of the most gorgeous and wonderful films of the late 80's period. It is a film I have to put on every few years, just because it is so enchanting, and though my love of cinema never wanes it certainly helps to reaffirm it. Tornatore with this film's depiction of small town Italian life feels like he is carrying on where Fellini left off in Amarcord, which would make an excellent double feature with that film.
Performances across the board are stellar, all 3 variations of Salvatore are excellent with the youngest played by Salvatore Cascio stealing the spotlight. The theatrical cut trimmed down by Tornatore for International release plays well, and the Director's Cut of the film occasionally feels a bit long, since it features heavily on the teenage romance segments, but it adds a bit more depth to the film, and the pacing remains intact.
Arrow Academy presents Cinema Paradiso (both theatrical and director's cuts) in 1:67:1 1080p AVC encoded transfers. Everything here looks gorgeous, and makes the film looks way better then they've ever looked before. Detail is fabulous, colors are excellent and natural, and blacks are inky and deep. There is some softness inherent in the way the film was shot, but that is to be expected.
Audio is presented with DTS-HD 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 tracks in Italian with subtitles. Both tracks are crisp and audible. No issues can be heard here.
Arrow Academy has put together a nice slate of extras including a documentary called A Dream of Sicily detailing the background of Tornatore's career and inspiration behind the film. We also get A documentary called A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise that specifically goes into depth about this film. There is a 7 minute piece about the film's kissing sequence that ends the film. There is a commentary with Tornatore, a 25th Anniversary trailer, a Director's Cut trailer, and a booklet of liner notes.
First off, I just have to say I am ridiculously happy that Arrow Academy has come to the U.S. I love the Arrow brand in general, and feel we need more Arthouse Blu-ray releases, and debuting with Cinema Paradiso is such a fantastic way to go. The Blu-ray looks and sounds marvelous, and is loaded up with extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.