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 high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.
Presented in both the original award-winning cut and the expanded Director’s Cut incorporating more of Salvatore’s backstory, newly restored from original negative materials.
Porting their UK edition over to North America, Arrow (through their Arrow Academy line, making its debut here as well) presents Giuseppe Tornatore’s Academy Award winning film Cinema Paradiso on Blu-ray. The two-disc set presents both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film, delivering them both on their own individual dual-layer discs. This presentations come from a 2K restoration scanned from the 35mm negative. I couldn’t detect a significant difference in quality between the two cuts so I’m assuming that the theatrical was put together using the same master for the director’s cut. Both cuts are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
I never did see Arrow’s UK edition, and also can’t comment on the American Miramax DVD edition. The last edition of the film I owned was the Canadian Alliance-Atlantis disc, which only presented the theatrical cut and was a shoddy release in every regard. In what is not at all a shocker Arrow’s Blu-ray just smears the floor with it. Far more filmic in look, the image is sharper and cleaner, better delivering the fine details of the town setting’s exteriors (brick work, weeds in the cracks, pebbles of dirt, vegetation in the fields) and the smoky interiors of the movie theater. Even the threading and textures on outfits pop out a lot of the time. Film grain can maybe look a bit blocky in some of the darker moments but on the whole it is nicely defined and clean, rendered well. Colours—the most stunning aspect of this presentation—are well saturated and look natural, the blues of the sky looking particularly good, and black levels are decent.
The restoration work is very good, though a few slight defects remain; nothing large or distracting, though. Overall it’s a spectacular looking restoration and encode, easily the best I’ve seen the film.
(Screen grabs below were taken from the director’s cut.)
Arrow includes a few audio tracks, all in the original Italian. Both versions of the film include a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. The theatrical cut includes a lossless PCM 1.0 mono track and the director’s cut includes a PCM 2.0 stereo track. The Alliance DVD did come with an English dub that I did use only because the subtitles for that release were absolutely awful. Arrow doesn’t include that dub here, though I’m not missing it.
At any rate they’re all fine and a viewer’s choice will really come down to personal preference. In terms of quality I think the 5.1 soundtracks are the better ones: very crisp and clean, with no apparent distortion or noise. The only thing about both tracks is they’re both front heavy: I only noticed a few subtle surround effects, with audio primarily being directed between the front speakers, though the movement is at least natural.
The other two tracks are a bit weaker and I didn’t find fidelity as strong. The stereo track doesn’t sound as sharp as the 5.1 and I didn’t find direction to be as distinct, but there are no glaring issues. The mono track on the theatrical cut is also fine but the weakest of all the presentations in terms of range and fidelity. But again, nothing glaring is present.
Arrow has put together a nice little special edition here, with the big feature being the inclusion of both cuts of the film, with the theatrical cut on the first disc and the director’s cut on the second disc.
There is also an audio commentary featuring professor Millicent Marcus 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. The booklet also features a number of behind-the-scenes photos and some poster art.
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.
Arrow provides a terrific release for the film, providing a wonderful restoration and encode for each version accompanied by some great video supplements (but you can probably skip the commentary). It comes very highly recommended.