Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Notable Cast: Philippe Noiret, Slavatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, Enzo Cannavale, Isa Danieli, Pupella Maggio, Agnese Nano, Leopoldo Trieste, Nino Terzo, Giovanni Giancono, Brigitte Fossey

One of the major changes that Blood Brothers has seen over the last couple of years is the inclusion of reviews for films outside of the basic genre niches to include more diverse “cult” films. The term cult is in itself much more diverse than most people give it credit for being and our writing staff is intent on exploring those facets. The Arrow Academy line, exploring more arthouse cinema than its sister label Arrow Video, is the perfect way to do this and they are finally coming to the US. Their slate for their March debut in the United States is jam packed, but it might be highlighted by the release of both the theatrical and director’s cut of the Oscar winning foreign film, Cinema Paradiso. It also happens to be first review we are going to focus on for the new Arrow Academy line up. It’s a great place to start as the film appeals on a lot of levels for cinephiles.

Salvatore (Perrin) has been stricken with some hard news. A father figure from his past, Alfredo (Noiret), has passed away. Salvatore is a famous film maker now, but his roots go back to an old local cinema in a small Italian town called Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo helped him in his love of movies. He starts to remember the past and why he left before he heads to the funeral.

The love of cinema, personified.
Often cited with drawing focus back to Italian cinema with its worldwide success in the late 80s and early 90s, Cinema Paradiso is one of those films that works on a variety of levels and it’s easy to see why it earned many of the accolades that it did. The film is an emotional roller coaster ride and it’s immaculately performed by its cast. It is essentially split into three acts, each one corresponding with a different age of its lead character Salvatore with the first two acts told in flashback to his interactions with the locals of the town and how both cinema and the father figure Alfredo became so important to him. In a way, Cinema Paradiso could have been three films as each act represents a different aspect of one character’s life journey. The first act is a sort of coming of age tale, the second act is one about romance and destiny, and the third is one about analysis and the lessons learned in a life lived and whether it was to its fullest or not. Occasionally, the film can stagger a bit in how expansive this concept is, having to rush a bit of the third act and drag the second act out with its romantic subplot, but the intent is certainly justified and it ultimately works. The emotions connect with the audience, on a variety of levels with its various approaches, and that is the most important aspect to why this film works.

Cinema Paradiso is really driven by its performances though. While the various performers that act as Salvatore in different ages, highlighted by a great and super charming performance from the youngest version played by Salvatore Cascio, are all great, this film is defined by the heart that Philippe Noiret brings to the table as Alfredo. He drives home many of the messages as the true protagonist of the film’s intentions and the performance simply delivers on all fronts. Cinema Paradiso is littered with amazing performances, but it’s his appearance and work in this film that lifts it above the high regards it receives. Director Giuseppe Tornatore realizes this and creates a defined and organic relationship between this father figure and the young Salvatore throughout the first two acts so well that his character and performance even effects the final act when he is not present. That’s the strength of the core of this film.

The feelings of a local cinema still effect me to this day too.
As a bonus, this Arrow Academy release does contain both versions of the film, the theatrical two hour cut and the almost three hour director’s cut. While the theatrical cut left some unanswered questions in its third act, the director’s cut does improve on it by adding in a substantial wrap around plot line from the second act that finishes it off and adds a new parallel to the meaning of the final moments of the film as Salvatore watches the final film reel that Alfredo made for him. Not to give too much away from the plotting or character developments, but give the longer director’s cut the chance it deserves as it improves on the overall thematic layering that the theatrical cut was lacking a bit in the final act.

Cinema Paradiso may not be a perfect film with some of its epic intent and decades spanning storytelling that can be a lot to consume all at once, but it’s a film that does linger after the credits have rolled as a love letter to post-war cinema and the lives of those that dedicate their time to telling us stories. It’s a layered character study and it’s powered by heartfelt intent that is perfectly expressed by performances, enhanced by a director with a vision, and punctuated with a phenomenal score by Morricone for a strong emotional ride. For one of Arrow Academy’s first US releases in March, one cannot get a better kick off than Cinema Paradiso as a dominant arthouse piece of cinema worthy of mention. This comes with the highest recommendation. 


  • Restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions the 124 minute Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute Director s Cut
  • Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
  • A Dream of Sicily A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
  • A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
  • The Kissing Sequence Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
  • Original Director s Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet by Pasquale Iannone illustrated with archive stills, behind-the-scenes images and posters


Written By Matt Reifschneider

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