Quality film news, reviews and features
14th December 2013 18:00:00
Posted by John White

Cinema Paradiso 25th Anniversary Remastered Edition

Blu-Ray Review: Your present worries are over, this is the best transfer of the film yet with some fine HD extras. You should own this.

The Film

Some time ago, Dame Judi Dench railed against being afforded the soubriquet of "national treasure". She felt that being labelled as a universally loved figure confined her and denied her character and abilities. Basically though, I guess she resented the idea that simply being likeable was all that she set out to be as a performer. I was put in mind of this whilst watching the film on review as Cinema Paradiso is something of a "treasure" albeit an international one, and unlike Dame Dench is most desirous of being loved, much as it, in turn, loves its subject, cinema.imageMore precisely, Cinema Paradiso is about the death of the old cinema of provincial theatres, independent operators and the communal experience of visiting the flicks. TV and home video, of course, killed off these old cinemas as people chose to nip to the local shop to watch something at home rather than listen to other people's sweet wrappers, queue in line and pay far too much for food and drink. Italy, in particular, experienced this terribly with the film factory of the late sixties and seventies diminishing to the small national cinema they have today.

The film "remembers" a golden era of Tati, Visconti and a communal spirit created through the occasion of the local cinema. The white collar pillars of the community take the better seats in the gallery, the kids sit at the front and the local professional women serve their customers in the shadows. Still, the main job of the viewer here is to watch the watchers, to enjoy how they look up to the screen and to piggyback on their joy and tears.imageWe do this through two characters who represent old and new. Alfredo is the bluff projectionist with the heart of gold and Toto is the poor altar boy who loves cinema and tests his older mentor. Toto will learn from Alfredo, succeed him and then leave him, only to return and see the final death of the place that brought them together. Toto's rites of passage see him through school to young love to the army. We rejoin him as a lonely unfulfilled adult with some fame, who rediscovers his past and his love for the flickering image.

Wait a minute! Growing up in a seaside town? Memories? A mad tramp who thinks he owns the local plaza? Some crudity, some religion and some politics? It can't be ignored the debt that Cinema Paradiso owes to Federico Fellini's Amarcord, and indeed the director even asked the great man to cameo as a projectionist. Like Amarcord did with its maker, Tornatore's film mines his own past and the result is more sanguine and conventional than the inspiration. This is because, as I said above, Tornatore's film wants to be lovedimageThis can be forgiven, though, when the object is so admirably sincere and worthy of the affection it seeks. Cinema Paradiso is a film full of nostalgia and that emotion is a somewhat unreliable one, but with the wonderful Noiret as Alfredo, the spirit of old cinema, and a great charismatic child actor in Salvatore Cascio, the vanguard of the new, this is very well acted and convincing as a story and parable. Ennio Morricone's score sets the mood of reverie and shapes the dramatic moments beautifully.

Cinema Paradiso reminds us of the time when the community viewed the cinema as integral to its daily life. Ironically, it does this now through our big screen TVs in our cosy living rooms behind the front doors of our nuclear homes, yet even if this reminder is a little rose-tinted it is a very moving and important one. It takes a hard heart to not be moved by this film, and twenty years later that's still true.

Cinema Paradiso is still a treasure.

The Discs

After a brief showing at the cinema, this restored print is available just in time for Christmas. The previous blu-ray release in the UK was a weak transfer which seemed to have come from a DVD master, and which showed the battered film in an unimpressive light. With this 25th anniversary and the limited theatrical run, we can now say the film has been shown the love it deserves with this restoration done using the camera negative. The print clearly retained lots of grain and some damage, so this is not perfect but a very big step-up from what we have seen before.

The cleaning up process has left some visual noise which I am assured is the original grain. Colours have improved dramatically from the very muted treatments of before, flesh tones are much warmer as a result. Black levels are sound enough, see below:
image

Detail is available in the image as never before and the overall summation of this transfer has to be impressive. Both cuts of the film are thankfully of the same visual quality and characteristics. The sound is much improved too. There are two lossless options for both cuts, the PCM stereo and master audio 5.1 mix. Now it's nice to have both, I found the 5.1 mix front loaded and lacking coverage in the rears. Finally the subtitles are not flawless in their translation with sometimes literal choices overcoming more appropriate options e.g. Does anyone say "cut your mouth out", surely its tongue!

Millicent Martin's commentary is fine if you are new to the film and want a companion who tells you the meaning of the action throughout with some biographical detail. She is supplemented by excerpts of Tornatore speaking in English, explaining things like Noiret's casting and the importance of certain producers. Her approach is not very critical though and for the cine-literate viewers her explanation of what film is showing in the cinema may seem obvious. The commentary only is available on the Theatrical cut.

On the region B locked discs, you also get lots of HD content with trailers for this edition and the original director's cut, alongside featurettes on the final "kissing scene" and the 30 minute documentary which was also on the last blu-ray release in the UK. New though is A Dream of Sicily where directors Tornatore and Francesco Rosi talk about their films and their efforts to capture Sicilian history and politics on film. There are lots of clips and much in the way of biography, but this is a rather winning addition to this release bringing some new light on Tornatore's family and politics and on how he became obsessed with filming.

There's also a booklet that comes with this release but unfortunately we didn't receive it.

Summary

Your present worries are over, this is the best transfer of the film yet with some fine HD extras. You should own this.

Details and Specifications
Blu-Ray Review

Region: B

Certificate: 15

Distributor:
Arrow

Running Time:
124/174 mins approx
Soundtracks:
Director's Cut:
Italian PCM stereo
Italian DTS HD MA 5.1

Theatrical Cut:
Italian PCM stereo
Italian DTS HD MA 5.1
English commentary DD 2.0 192Kbps

Subtitles:
English

Director:
Giuseppe Tornatore

Main cast:
Phillipe Noiret
Marco Leonardo
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Ratings
Film
9
Video
8
Audio
8
Extras
7
8
About John White
John lurks in the shadows of Digital Fix reviewing films meant for people half his age and twice his intellect. The madder, the stranger and the more squalid a film the more likely he is to acclaim it the Citizen Kane of its kind. Apart from looking both startled and menacing, John is the editor of the TV section at Digital Fix, you can find his scribblings there here. John can be found on Google Plus, Facebook and posts at our Twitter page too.


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