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Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso) (4K Ultra HD)
There are plenty of movies about Hollywood and the art of filmmaking, and some simply celebrate the joys of cinema as a universal pastime. One such film is Cinema Paradiso, the 1988 Italian drama from Giuseppe Tornatore that won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Set in then-present Rome, as well as the late 1940s, the film follows the life of Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi and Jacques Perrin; playing the character from youngest to oldest), the precocious son of a World War II widow who lives in the fictional Giancaldo, Sicily, and becomes fascinated with movies at a local theater, the Cinema Paradiso. The boy befriends a cranky projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), and prefers to spend his days in the projection booth instead of alongside the local priest (Leopoldo Trieste) as an altar boy. Referred to as "Toto," Alfredo sees his life shaped by the virtues instilled in him by Alfredo, as well as the interactions he has with other cinema patrons and the shared experiences of the films screened. Cinema Paradiso is an excellent film with strong performances in its own right, and cinephiles will likely find the film especially affecting.
Cinema Paradiso opens as Toto's aged mother Maria (Antonella Attili and Pupella Maggio) phones his girlfriend to relay the message that Alfredo has died. Toto has not been home in 30 years, for reasons that become apparent later in the story, and the film begins a series of flashbacks when Toto is asked about Alfredo. Viewers see the mischievous boy collect frames of film discarded by the projectionist. Each film screened in the village has all its love scenes removed by order of the local priest, and a running joke involves the chorus of boos from the audience when these noticeable cuts occur. One man remarks that he has not seen a kiss on screen in 20 years. When Alfredo is injured in a workplace accident, Toto takes over projection duties for the now-blind man. In Toto's teenage years he begins shooting home movies and falls for a local girl, Elena (Agnese Nano), whose wealthy father does not approve of Toto. He enters combat due to Italy's compulsory military service requirements, during which time his letters to Elena are returned undeliverable. After his service and return home, Toto is encouraged by Alfredo to leave town to follow his dreams and never look back. Thirty years later, Toto is a successful filmmaker with few ties to his past. His return home for Alfredo's funeral awakens memories, nostalgia, and some deep-seeded regret for Toto.
The overall tone of Cinema Paradiso is warm nostalgia, so the trip down Toto's memory lane may not impress hard-hearted viewers. For those open to enjoying the ride, the film offers excellent performances, particularly from the two actors who portray the younger versions of Toto. Cascio, particularly, is impressive for his age, and gives Toto a believably wide-eyed naivete and joy that gives the film energy and dramatic life. There is much humor, particularly in early scenes between Alfredo and Toto in the projection booth, where they often bicker or listen for the priest's orders to excise frames during his private screenings of new films. The bookend scenes in which an adult Toto reflects on his life's choices are universally relatable, but the film's strongest moments happen during its lengthy flashbacks. Cinema Paradiso is handsomely shot by Tornatore, with cinematography by Blasco Giurato and a pleasing score from Ennio and Andrea Morricone. This release from Arrow Video includes the 124-minute international theatrical version in 4K, as well as the 155-minute director's cut in 1080p. The director's cut expands on Toto's early love life, offers more exposition for his character, and provides a slightly different, bittersweet ending. In either form, Cinema Paradiso is a lovingly nostalgic, coming-of-age story for a boy who falls in love with the movies.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
The 4K Ultra HD release of Cinema Paradiso presents the film with a 1.67:1/HEVC/H.265/2160p transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 from a Native 4K source. The included booklet provides brief information about the restoration, which was completed under the watchful eye of Director Tornatore and DP/Cinematographer Giurato. The HDR/Dolby Vision grading was done on behalf of Arrow. The result is cinematic and impressive, particularly the skillful way in which the transfer handles the often-heavy grain inherent to the production elements. I enjoy natural, occasionally imperfect grain structures, and I appreciate that Arrow has not attempted to scrub or manipulate the elements here. There are some very grainy shots (check out the opening credits and some dimly lit scenes in the town plaza for examples), but the image looks fantastic in motion. Fine-object detail is often very impressive. Close-ups reveal intimate facial features and abundant object texture. Wide shots, even when grainy, are deep and pleasing. Skin tones appear natural, landscapes are lush, and highlights are kept in check, even in sunny, seaside, outdoor shots. The HDR grading offers bolder, richer colors, particularly in brightly lit scenes, and both black levels and shadow detail are improved. The overall look of the film is warm and inviting, and I noticed no major issues with print damage, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
The soundtrack is offered in LPCM Mono and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio variants on the 4K and in LPCM 2.0 stereo for the director's cut on Blu-ray. Which mix is preferable? I guess that depends on what you are looking for. There is not an incredible difference between the mono and stereo mixes, and both offer excellent fidelity, reasonable depth, and refrain from element crowding. The 5.1 mix does offer extended ambience, particularly for environmental effects and the score, but this unspooling into the surrounds is subtle. Dialogue is clear throughout, and the score and elemental effects are appropriately balanced and layered. This is certainly not a mix that will blow the door off your home theater, but it feels very appropriate for the material. English subtitles are available for both cuts of the film.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set arrives in a hinged, black 4K case and includes a 4K disc and a Blu-ray. The artwork is dual-sided, and the case is wrapped in a slipcover. The shorter, theatrical version and bonus material appear on the 4K disc and the director's cut appears on the Blu-ray. Bonus features mirror the previous Arrow HD release and include an Audio Commentary by Director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert Millicent Marcus that is largely a discussion with Marcus with a few, isolated remarks from the director; A Dream of Sicily (54:45/HD), a profile of Tornatore and his body of work; A Bear and a Mouse (27:26/HD), a 2006 documentary about the production with cast and crew interviews; The Kissing Sequence (7:01/HD), about the seminal, climactic sequence; a 25th Anniversary Trailer (1:40/HD); and a Director's Cut Trailer (1:24/HD).
Arrow Video unveils another excellent 4K Ultra HD release, this time for Italian classic Cinema Paradiso. Fans of the film who already own the 2017 Blu-ray edition will find a pleasantly upgraded image that benefits from an HDR pass but may not necessarily be inclined to upgrade. The set includes both the international theatrical and director's cuts of the film, worthy supplements, and excellent tech specs. Highly Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.