Cinema Paradiso Blu-Ray Review
*Philippe Noiret as Alfredo
*Salvatore Cascio as Salvatore Di Vita (child)
* Marco Leonardi as Salvatore Di Vita (teen)
*Jacques Perrin as Salvatore Di Vita (adult)
*Antonella Attili as Maria (young)
*Enzo Cannavale as Spaccafico
*Isa Danieli as Anna
*Pupella Maggio as Maria (old)
*Agnese Nano as Elena Mendola (adolescent)
*Leopoldo Trieste as Father Adelfio
*Nino Terzo as Peppino’s Father
*Giovanni Giancono as The Mayor
*Brigitte Fossey (Extended cut) as Elena Mendola (adult)
Story: A filmmaker recalls his childhood, when he fell in love with the movies at his village’s theater and formed a deep friendship with the theater’s projectionist.
Cinema Paradiso is one of the most well-known foreign films to ever win an Oscar, and it’s one that’s still beloved by film buffs to this day. The film was released in 1988 in Italy and is a love letter to the early days of cinema. It won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the BAFTA Awards, the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Now it’s been released in the States via Arrow Academy, the more respectable arm of Arrow Videos compared to the exploitation and horror themed Arrow Video.
What’s the film about? It’s a coming of age story following Salvatore “Tito” Di Vita, as he progresses from a child to a man, with cinema being what his life revolves around. It all starts when he’s a kid and the village he lives at attends the same theater often. This theater is all the community really has in the way of entertainment, even if the films are censored by the local church. Not even kissing is allowed. Salvatore desperately wants to become a film projectionist just like Alfredo, in spite of the latter’s protests that he should aspire to be greater.
While it gets a lot of love for how it pays respect to the early days of the movies, that’s not really what it’s about. Cinema plays a huge part in the story (it’s even part of the title), but the film is more about the relationship between Tito and Alfredo. It’s clear early on that in spite of some antagonistic actions towards each other, Alfredo’s basically a surrogate father for Tito and vice versa. This, and Tito saving the elder man’s life later in the film, may be why Alfredo goes out of his way to talk him into leaving his hometown.
It’s a standard coming-of-age story, but it’s the way the movie tells it that makes it special. Everything is seemingly handled with great care, crafting characters and situations you care about. Even minor joke characters make enough of an impact that when they appear during the later portion of Tito’s life, you feel the same nostalgia that he does. That’s another big theme of the film. It’s about nostalgia and saying goodbye to the past.
Philippe Noiret manages to juggle the various character aspects of Alfredo with skill. He’s funny when he needs to be, dramatic when the plot requires and overall an endearing character to watch. Everything he does, he does because he’s a good man and genuinely cares about Tito. The relationship between the two is believable at the two stages of Tito’s life we see it, as Noiret manages to have a rapport with both actors.
There are three different actors taking on the role of Salvatore and they vary in what they bring to the story. We spend the most time with Salvatore Cascio and he acts like a normal kid. In a world where child actors are usually stilted in their line reading, this is actually a compliment. Marco Leonardi likewise has a large portion of the film to tell his story, including the bulk of his relationship with the beautiful Elena. If I had to complain about anyone, it’s Jacques Perrin. He doesn’t say much and he doesn’t do a lot, but that’s more of an error of the script and cutting than Perrin. And, as it turns out, the bulk of his scenes were left on the cutting room for. If you watch the “Director’s Cut,” you’ll know why.
This “Director’s Cut” is probably the weaker of the two films. It contains everything great about the original film but it adds on an extra thirty minutes of soap opera-level story. It adds nothing except an unnecessary epilogue onto what happened to Salvatore’s love interest. It also paints Alfredo in a bad light, as it shows how far he was willing to go to give Tito a better life, no matter what the cost. Director Giuseppe Tornatore was ultimately right in cutting it, even if it’s nice to have for those who may want to complete their experience.
Cinema Paradiso is a movie that features great performances, an easy-to-watch story and a love of cinema that anyone who grew up watching movies can relate to. This is an easy recommendation, although you may want to stick with the shorter and smoother theatrical cut.
The theatrical version of the film is presented in LPCM Mono and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The director’s cut is presented in LPCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. They all sound great. The score of the film is beautiful, so it’s nice to hear it cleaned up and remastered.
The video is also great, showing all the film’s attention to detail, bright colors and cinematography. The only time it looks dirty is when the old films are shown in the cinema, but that’s the point of those scenes. They’re not meant to look good. It’s almost a before and after look at how far we’ve come in preserving film. Both versions have AVC encoded 1080p transfers in 1.67:1.
Audio Commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus: Marcus does most of the talking with some comments from Tornatore every now and then. It’s not the best commentary in the world, but perfectly serviceable for those wanting more on the film.
A Dream of Sicily: An hour-long feature on the director, with his own thoughts on filmmaking and an interesting looks at his early home movies.
A Bear and A Mouse: This runs around a half-hour and features interviews with Tornatore, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio, who is now old enough to play the adult version of Tito.
The Kissing Sequence: Tornatore talks about the film’s climactic final scene, in which Tito looks at the final gift from Alfredo. It also contains a list of all the films contained in the compilation.
It also features trailers for the 25th anniversary of the film, as well as it’s director’s cut.
This set comes with a decent selection of features, with fascinating takes on the making of the film as well as a focus on the people who made it. With around four hours of bonus material (including the commentary), you can’t go wrong.
Special Features: 7.5