Cinema Paradiso

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Synopsis

A winner of awards across the world including Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 5 BAFTA Awards including Best Actor, Original Screenplay and Score, the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and many more.

Giuseppe Tornatore’s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the highs and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.

Giuseppe Tornatore’s classic is presented in its original award-winning theatrical version and in the expanded Director’s Cut, which delves deeper into Salvatore’s backstory.

Picture 8/10

Arrow Academy upgrades their previous Blu-ray edition for Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso to an all-new 4K UHD edition. Though the release features both the theatrical and director's cuts, only the theatrical cut is presented in 4K, which is through a 2160p/24hz encode with Dolby Vision on the first triple-layer UHD disc. The presentation is sourced from a brand new 4K restoration, which was completed at L'Immagine Ritrovata. Arrow also includes a high-definition version of the director's cut on the second disc in the set, a dual-layer Blu-ray. For that presentation Arrow is reusing their own 2K restoration which appeared on their older edition. Both versions of the film are presented in the aspect ratio 1.66:1.

The 4K version starts out a little rough and I could already feel my heart sink a little bit: the opening sequence (with credits as the camera pulls back) looked incredibly flat and textureless, waxy even, almost like an extensive amount of filtering had been applied to the image, the colours even coming off a bit dull and lifeless. So far, in comparison to the original Blu-ray, I was less than thrilled. Thankfully this all ends up being an anomaly because once the film cuts to another shot everything suddenly becomes sharper and cleaner.

The film may not be one that would immediately come to mind when thinking "4K upgrade," at least compared to two other Arrow titles, Pitch Black and Flash Gordon. Those two films contain very bright sequences with a lot of colour (even during Pitch Black's pitch-black moments), where Cinema Paradiso features a very simple, even drab colour palette. Yet the film really does benefit from the upgrade and the improved dynamic range, and the film does end up looking a bit bolder. Colours do look better (for the most part, anyways, which I'll touch on) and the wider spectrum is noticeable, even in the browns of the buildings, but it's the blues in the sky and the various reds (like the reds of the theater lights) that stick out. Blacks can still be a bit muddy (and this more than likely comes down to the original photography), but they do look better here compared to the Blu-ray, providing improved shadow detail in many of the darker shots. And though the film does have a "drabber" look in comparison to Pitch Black and Flash Gordon, it still has its share of brighter moments, whether it be around the projector light (which can be insanely bright at times without blowing out detail) or an unfortunate fire midway through the film, and they look fantastic on screen.

The restoration does have a warmer look to it, with scenes showing that yellow/teal/green tint thing that is going on in a lot of recent 4K restorations, though it's more toned down than a lot of those recent ones, and it actually suits the film. Some shots can take on a greener look than I might like, but, for the most part, whites still look white (just a bit warmer) and blues actually look blue, not cyan. The Dolby Vision configuration on my LG OLED does push things warmer to begin with, so some of it could be from that, but the tint is still there when the feature is turned off, as it is in the SDR screen caps from the disc, so I'm pretty sure part of it is at least baked in. But again, outside of a couple of shots I thought it looked fine, and I think I prefer it over the grading of the older Blu-ray. Looking at the director's cut again, the skin tones can be pretty pink-ish.

Getting past that, everything else about the presentation is stellar. The level of detail present can be just astounding, and probably the biggest surprise. I wasn't expecting this aspect to offer a huge upgrade over the Blu-ray, but there is a very notable improvement. The improved detail around the buildings and the town square in general is simply incredible, and the finer details found in the long shots of the landscapes, the fields, and everything around the town are clear-as-day and really pop. But what just really blew me away were all of the smoky sequences, whether inside the theater or outside; I've never seen smoke or fog as cleanly rendered as it is here. There is no digital noise at all, no weird banding issues, no nothing. It just looks like smoke blowing around. And that cleaner rendering aspects like that carry on to other types of sequences as well, like the rain in the film's famous kissing scene, which has never looked as good as it does here. The improvement over the Blu-ray in this area is really surprising. I was expecting an upgrade, but I wasn't expecting it to be as obvious as it is here.

Outside of that opening shot, the film is incredibly grainy, which was easy to see on the Blu-ray as well. Though the Blu-ray still handled the grain just fine, it is ultimately rendered in a better manner here, looking far more natural. As to the condition of the source materials there can be slight pulsese and some very minor specs in a handful of places, but outside of those very minor issues the restoration work has given the film a great polish, but to be fair, Arrow's own restoration was just as good in this department as well.

Again, the film doesn't have the most dynamic look, with blacks that can still be a bit weak (and that opening looks weird), but on the whole it looks impressive. I wasn't expecting a significant upgrade over the Blu-ray since it was pretty solid itself, but the improvements end up being very clear and striking, from better colours to improved details, all leading to a more film-like look. I think this just shows what 4K can offer for any film, not just the eye-candy.

(Note: All screen grabs have been taken from the 4K theatrical cut,. Screen grabs from the director's cut's high-def presentation can be found here.)

Audio 7/10

As far as I could tell, the audio presentations were about the same between this edition and the previous Blu-ray. Yet again, both versions of the film receive Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround soundtracks, with the theatrical cut also receiving a lossless PCM 1.0 monaural soundtrack and the director's cut a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack. No English-dub has been supplied.

The 5.1 soundtrack sticks out for both, sounding far sharper with better depth and range. The soundtrack as a whole, though, is still very front heavy with very little being pushed out to the other speakers, limited to the music and some subtle sound effects. It being a surround presentation ends up being a bit ridiculous, but the overall quality is good.

The mono and stereo tracks are both fine but they're pretty weak and lack range, and the stereo track doesn't sound to spread audio all that much as well.

Extras 7/10

Outside of the 4K presentation on the first disc, this release replicates Arrow's previous edition exactly when it comes down to supplements, presenting the bulk of the material on the first triple-layer UHD disc (though all features are in high-definition) along with the 4K theatrical cut, and then the director's cut (presented in high-definition) and its resepctive trailer on the second dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The second disc actually appears to be the exact same disc as the one found in the previous edition, the artwork on the disc being the only thing that differs. Here's what I wrote about the supplements for the previous edition:

[The supplements start off with an] audio commentary featuring professor Millicent Marcus [(which is only included with the theatrical cut of the film)], mixed with audio clips featuring director Giuseppe Tornatore edited in. This was disappointingly a fairly rudimentary academic track, Marcus literally (and I really do mean literally) reiterating what’s on screen. She basically describes the action on screen, what it’s going to lead to, possible “surprises” that change the direction of a scene, and so on. Occasionally she offers some context to a scene, or some backstory and history, but that’s rare. Tornatore talks a little about the production and such but I can’t even say there’s anything truly revelatory in there. For newcomers to the film or film in general maybe the track will offer something but it did very little for me, and the only real value I got from it was that she names off most of the films that make appearances, aiding me in the ones I did not recognize.

The rest of the features are better and I’d recommend skipping the track and just moving on to them. All of the significant features are found on the first disc. The big feature is the 52-minute documentary A Dream of Sicily, which offers a look at Tornatore’s life and career, chronicling his early life and then covering his film work starting with the very first footage he apparently filmed. Surprisingly there is actually not all that much on Cinema Paradiso, but that proves fine as the documentary really seems to be working on showing how he developed as a filmmaker.

The 27-minute documentary A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise is more of a making-of, focusing on the film’s two characters Toto and Alfredo, even getting interviews with the actors, Salvatore Cascio and Philippe Noiret, with director Tornatore popping up as well. The three talk about various aspects of the shoot, with Noiret sharing a few stories about his confident young co-star. There are also details about how the theatrical cut came to be following a number of unsuccessful releases It isn’t much more than a talking-heads piece but it’s engaging and surprising at times.

The Kissing Sequence is a 7-minute feature about the film’s famous finale, with Tornatore explaining how the idea came about and how he tried to talk a certain famous Italian director to play the role of the projectionist, with this director’s reason for not doing it being fairly amusing. The segment also shows the clips from the kissing sequences and annotates them with the title of the film and the starts. This latter aspect proves to be of value.

The first disc then closes with the film’s 25th anniversary trailer, while the second disc features the director’s cut trailer. No other features are found on the second disc. Arrow also provides one of their great booklets (limited to first pressings) featuring an essay on the film by Pasquale Iannone, who also offers more details about the film’s differing cuts. [NOTE: the old booklet featured a section with production photos and poster art. Some of the production photos have made it into this booklet, but not all of them.]

Other than the commentary I don’t think any material has made it over from the Miramax disc (I still haven’t seen that one) and there was nothing of value on the Alliance disc, so anyone that has that one can rightfully trash it (don’t even give it away, don’t do that to someone). Whether some material is missing or not Arrow has still put together a nice little special edition, all of the video features well worth the time of going through.

Closing

The edition is basically the same as Arrow's previous Blu-ray edition, but the 4K upgrade of the theatrical version goes well and beyond what I was expecting.

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Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore
Year: 1988
Time: 174 | 124 min.
 
Series: Arrow Academy
Licensor: Cristaldi Films
Release Date: December 08 2020
MSRP: $49.95
 
4K UHD Blu-ray/Blu-ray
2 Discs | BD-50/UHD-66
1.66:1 ratio
Italian 1.0 PCM Mono
Italian 2.0 PCM Stereo
Italian 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Regions A/B/None
 
 Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus   A Dream of Sicily – A 52-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   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 Giuseppe Tornatore   The Kissing Sequence – Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene   Original Director's Cut Theatrical Trailer   25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer   FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring an essay by Pasquale Iannone