Cinema Paradiso Review
The FilmDame Judi Dench recently railed against her 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 likable was all that she set out to be as a performer. Cinema Paradiso may not be a national treasure but it is certainly an international one, and it, unlike Dame Dench, is most desirous of being loved. It definitely wants to be loved, and it wants to be loved in the way that it adores its subject - cinema itself.
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.
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 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. Moreover it wants to be loved more and is much more conventional than it's spiritual forebear.
Cinema Paradiso reminds us of the time when the community viewed the cinema as integral to its daily life. It is indeed ironic that it does this through our TVs in our living rooms behind the front doors of our nuclear homes, yet even if this reminder is both ironic and rose tinted it is very entertaining and most winning. 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.
Technical SpecsThe transfer is not a complete success, I'm afraid. I checked the disc against my miramax edition, which seems to be the same print, and the same sequences in that film come from the same poorer quality materials here, and I suspect that contrast and colour boosting has been applied to improve some of the image as well. Sometimes whites in fabrics are bleach bright and skintones are often pinkish, there are also a few examples of edges which seem too pronounced. It's the daytime sequences where I notice these issues more as the contrast seems to be about right and shadow detail is ok if not exceptional. Generally, this is not a huge improvement on the R1 disc in terms of detail or colouring. I prefer the tones of the R1 disc but you may not, so here's some comparisons:
Same still from Arrow blu-ray
Alfredo in the booth from R1 disc
Aldredo from the Arrow blu-ray
Similarly, the audio options also show wear and tear with both the LPCM stereo and Master Audio tracks carrying some hum, and I had to rejig my audio synching on the dubbing as well. Of the two options, I much preferred the stereo option but I do wonder why no original mono was offered as both audio mixes seem a bit echoey and the master audio comes off a little metallic to my ear. If you must have surround options I suppose it'll do, the English subs are very good but are permanent.
Special featuresA half hour documentary encoded in 1080P is included with the director talking about the auto-biographical elements of his film as well as the film's eventual success courtesy of Cannes. Noiret and a grown up Casco, still looking like a chipmonk, also contribute. The director's persistence in insisting that his longer cut was better is a tad vainglorious but al least consistent.
From the same interview, Tornatore discusses the Kissing sequence and his idea of asking Fellini to cameo as the projectionist. Fellini's polite rejection of the film-maker's request is typically polite and to the point, and given the obvious inspiration of the maestro, it's no surprise that Tornatore fills the great man's shoes in the film itself.
The photo gallery includes 50 images, some from shooting, some candid snaps and some stills. Morricone's score is included in it's entirety using stills from the film as accompaniement. The final extra is a standard definition trailer for the director's cut complete with awful sugary voiceover.
SummaryI hope a better more detailed version will eventually come out on high definition. This is not a huge improvement on the R1 transfer which with decent upscaling can come very close in quality to this treatment.
Note: Cinema Paradiso is available exclusively through HMV until January when it will become available through other retailers.
9 out of 10
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6 out of 10