Cinema Paradiso (Arrow Academy) Blu-ray Review: A Timeless Classic

An extremely moving and lyrical tribute to the power of Cinema.
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As the most magical medium in the world, Cinema has the power to move us: to make us laugh, cry, and think about the world we live in. It also has the gift of defining and shaping our lives right in front of us, which is something that argubly no other medium can ever do. Director Giuseppe Tornatore's 1988 Oscar-winning masterpiece, Cinema Paradiso, affectingly shows us why movies are so majestic to our culture. 

The film tells the timeless story of Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), a successful filmmaker who returns home for the funeral of his dear friend Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the projectionist of a local cinema theater that was a very special part of his childhood. In a series of flashbacks, we are introduced to him as a young boy and young man, nicknamed "Toto", an altar boy and schoolmate falling in love with movies as he attends the theater on a daily basis, and eventually strikes up a long friendship with Alfredo. From there, he is taught and guided in the ways of being a film projectist, which helps him discover his true calling as a film director. One day, he encounters the beautiful Elena with whom he carries on a doomed but passionate love affair, which changes his life and film world forever. 

There are several reasons why the film still feels fresh and timeless since the day it was released. First, it is a celebration of the everlasting enchanment of movies that I can defintely relate to. Second, it is an accurate coming-of-age tale about what happens to us when we grow, and the highs and lows of growing up. Third, it shows how friendship can actually be longlasting, even in the most dire circumstances. There is an intense scene that expresses the latter where Toto saves Alfredo's life as the theater catches fire and burns down. Lastly, it delves into film censorship where the local priest orders all kissing scenes and other indecent moments to be cut from the films that are shown at the theater. This sets up one of the most famous endings in film history, as the grown up Salvatore is given a gift by Alfredo's widow, which turns out to be all of the kissing scenes that were once censored. I dare anyone not to be moved during this moment, as we see Perrin tear up while watching them. 

Noiret gives a compelling performance as Alfredo, who becomes a surrogate father to Toto, showing him the ways of the world, especially those of film. In perhaps one of the greatest performances by a child ever, Salvatore Cascio brings a delightful precociousness to the character of Toto as a young boy. You sense his deep reaction to movies, and how he develops a huge passion for them. As the teenage Toto, Marco Leonardi is a great discovery as he deals with love and loss in the most relatable of ways. And lets not forget Perrin, who brings a mature and remarkable portrayal of the adult Toto, as he comes home to reconnect with the life he left 30 years ago. 

Arrow pulls out all the stops to give new life to this all-time classic film. This comes in a two-disc Blu-ray set which includes both the 124 minute original theatrical version and the better regarded 174 minute director's cut.

Disc 1:

  • Audio commentary with Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
  • A Dream of Sicily - a wonderful 52-minute documentary profile of Tornatore featuring interviews with the director and excerpts 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 great 27-minute documentary on the making of the film and the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with Noiret and Cascio, as well as Tornatore himself
  • The Kissing Sequence - a great but brief featurette with Tornatore as he discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with clips from each film
  • 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer

Disc 2:

  • The original Director's Cut - adding 51 minutes of previously unseen footage that adds context, especially to Toto's teenage years. This brings more depth and understanding to the story and is considered to be the most definitive version of the film.
  • Original Director's Cut trailer

Rounding out the release is a booklet with a new essay by film critic Pasquale Iannone, a behind-the-scenes gallery, and a reversible sleeve featuring original and new artwork by Nigel Winfield.

 I fell in love with the timeless classic because it showcases in poetic detail, the brilliance of Cinema, and how essential it really is. It it also an amazing reason why I am so in love with movies myself. I cannot imagine my life without film, and I definitely can't imagine it without this impressive landmark of cinema love. See you at the movies!

Cinema Paradiso (Arrow Academy) is currently a Barnes & Noble exclusive until March 28.

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