Cinema Paradiso appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pleasing presentation.
Overall definition seemed nice. A smidgen of softness could hit some wider shots, but most of the movie appeared accurate and well-defined. I saw no shimmering or jagged edges, and both print flaws and edge haloes failed to mat the proceedings. With a good sense of grain structure, I didn’t suspect any digital noise tampering.
In terms of colors, Paradiso opted for a pretty natural palette. The movie offered warm, rich hues that suited the material.
Blacks were dark and deep, and shadows usually seemed fine. A couple of low-light shots appeared slightly dense, but not to a distracting degree. Ultimately, the transfer worked nicely.
A gentle, nostalgic film like Cinema Paradiso doesn’t seem likely to boast a slam-bang soundtrack, and its DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio seemed appropriately subdued. As I anticipated, music played the most important role, as the score filled the various speakers in a satisfying manner.
Effects were more limited. Occasionally I heard elements that spread to the side/rears, but not often, and not with much breadth. Outside of the music, the track usually felt fairly monaural, so don’t expect a lot of involvement via the side or surround channels.
Audio quality varied but remained acceptable. Speech became the weakest link, mainly due to a fair amount of dodgy looping. I may not have seen a ton of Italian movies, but I know they love their re-recorded dialogue – so why did they usually do so in such an unconvincing manner?
I don’t know, but Cinema suffered from a lot of speech that felt unnatural and didn’t connect well with the footage. Many lines didn’t seem to synch up with mouth movements in an especially natural manner, and even when they did, the dialogue still came across as canned and fake.
Otherwise, the track seemed fine. Music fared best, as the score appeared warm and lush. While they lacked much to do, effects remained reasonably clear and accurate. This seemed like a perfectly average track for its era.
This package includes a mix of extras, and it provides two different versions of the Paradiso. In addition to the 1988 theatrical version (2:03:50), we get a 2002 Director’s Cut (2:53:31). Of the film’s three parts, the third act gains most of the extra material.
I compared the two editions at a few “checkpoints” to gauge the differences, and the first half of the theatrical version remains almost entirely intact for the DC. The “new Cinema Paradiso” opens at 56:35 in the shorter rendition and it comes at 58:43 in the longer one, so if you hope to see a lot more of young Salvatore, you’ll encounter disappointment.
Adolescent Salvatore gets more of a boost, as the second act earns a moderate amount of extra running time. Adult Salvatore returns home at 1:42:02 of the theatrical and 2:01:29 of the DC, so Teen Salvatore gains about 17 minutes of footage.
If you’ve already done the math, you’ve figured out that Adult Salvatore receives the lion’s share of the longer version. More than 30 minutes of extra footage enters that part of the movie, and this means that the final 21:48 of the theatrical version stretches to the last 52:21 of the DC.
Much of this material revolves around a deleted character: Adult Elena (Brigitte Fossey) doesn’t appear in the theatrical version but she receives lots of screentime in the DC, as Salvatore finds out what happened to her.
Whether or not these additions work depends on the viewer, but they clearly change the narrative, as they alter our perceptions of Alfredo and make him more manipulative than in the sunnier theatrical version. The longer cut seems more melancholy and less overtly nostalgic due to the inclusion of this semi-dark story element.
Most of the extras appear on the theatrical Blu-ray, and these bring us an audio commentary from writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore and film historian Millicent Marcus. This gives us a running, screen-specific chat from Marcus into which we find the occasional recorded remark from Tornatore. The filmmaker offers a few moderate insights, but he appears too infrequently to deliver much information of merit.
That means Marcus dominates the commentary, and she fails to bring it to life. While Marcus presents occasional thoughts about themes, interpretation and production areas, she mainly just narrates the movie. Since we can see it for ourselves, Marcus’s remarks add little and turn this into a slow, semi-pointless discussion.
A few video programs follow. A Dream of Sicily goes for 54 minutes, 45 seconds and presents comments from Tornatore, director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato. A mix of memories, clips from films and home movies, “Dream” looks at Tornatore’s life and what influenced his work. This becomes a somewhat rambling but still generally interesting view.
During the 27-minute, 26-second A Bear and a Mouse, we hear from Tornatore and actors Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio. The program looks at the movie’s origins and aspects of the production. “Mouse” manages to give us a solid overview of the film and becomes the best of the disc’s behind the scenes elements, though the now grown-up Cascio seems desperate to look like Bono.
Finally, The Kissing Sequence fills seven minutes, one second. It offers notes from Tornatore as he discusses the casting of a minor part that almost involved a famous director. The featurette also relates the movies from which the flick’s “kissing montage” comes, so it ends up as a useful piece.
In addition to two trailers, the set concludes with a booklet. It presents photos, credits and an essay from film lecturer Pasquale Iannone. The booklet ends the package on a positive note.
As either a celebration of movies or a nostalgic view of childhood, Cinema Paradiso flops. Packed with tacky sentiment and little actual emotion, the film plods and fizzles. The Blu-ray provides very good picture with a mix of supplements and mediocre audio. Paradiso turns into a dull disappointment.