Salvatore is an internationally famous film director and when he hears that his old friend and mentor has died he returns to the Sicilian village where he grew up. It is there where Salvatore starts to reminisce about his childhood and Alfredo, the projectionist at the soon to be demolished Cinema Paradiso, who first ignited (in more sense than one) his passion for the movies.
Although Alfredo considered the young Salvatore a troublesome pest, constantly distracting him from his work with annoying questions and requests, Salvatore was really the son Alfredo never had and he had a bit of a soft spot for him. And with Salvatore's father killed in the war, Salvatore treated Alfredo not only as a close friend but as the father he never knew. It was a close friendship which was to last for more than thirty years.
As Salvatore journeys around the village he meets many of his old friends and causes many differing memories to resurface. His memories are first seen through the innocent eyes of a child and on the whole offer good memories. As he grows into a teenager they include his national service, first sexual encounter and his first love, the beautiful Elena, a girl from a wealthy family who would break his heart in two.
The picture is bright and colourful with a good level of detail and colour depth through the film. There are no signs of any artifacting or outlining and the print is relatively free of grain and dust scratches. However, the highlight of the film must be each time the village square is used. The bright white buildings and their surroundings positively shine on DVD and it make you want to pack your bags and pay the place a visit. I'm sure this small Sicilian village has subsequently been inundated with eager tourists.
Both versions of the film are presented in Dolby Digital, abet with a mono soundtrack. Never the less, it is effective enough and you can dispense with the surround system for the duration of the film. This is certainly more important to the non-Italian speakers out there as they can concentrate on reading those all important subtitles whilst enjoying the wonderful soundtrack without any real effort.
For a collector's edition of the film the extras are sparse indeed. The main extras, if you can call them as such, are based on the first disc whilst the second disc has a repeat of the first discs director's credits. Both discs have animated and scored menus with clips from the film "projected" onto a static background. However, it is the rather brief information booklet, with observations by Mark Deitch, which is possibly the most interesting part of a very disappointing set of extras. For a film of such importance, where was the audio commentary or featurette? Even the padding of a theatrical trailer is missing.
The collector's edition is presented in a pleasant and well designed gatefold digi-pack covered with images of the film. However, no matter how nice these these paper sleeves are they soon become creased and cracked at the exposed edges. I've often wondered why "special edition" or "season box-set" means "paper box". I guess if you manage to keep this set it in a good enough condition it certainly will become a "collector's edition" in years to come.
The directors cut of Cinema Paradiso is a bit of strange affair. Although a directors cut is normally released to show the film how the director intended, there has been a lot of debate over the merits of this extended release. It appears that some of the fans don't like the extended version, feeling that it has taken some of the sparkle away from the original cut, whilst others claim that it helps finish a few things off. Fortunately, you can make your your own mind up as both the original and director's cut of the film are available for viewing in this two disc set. Mind you, if you've never seen the film before many people recommend that you should watch the original version first. The only trouble with this idea is that you'll need to find five hours in order to do so.
Cinema Paradiso gains it many successes by being a film which is unafraid to be sentimental. The cinematography in this multi-award winning film is simply stunning whilst the acting all round is first rate. The thing that really made the film for me was the wonderful acting from the young Salvatore. Even the most depressed of person would find it hard to raise a smile whenever his cheeky little grin appears on screen. There are also plenty of laughs on offer from the cinema patrons, both with their comments and their activities in the dark corners of the show house.
The only down side to this package would be that fans of the film will probably already own the previously released Tartan version. I'm sure they will not be best pleased with the release of yet another edition of the film. However, for those people who don't already this film on DVD then there's no better time to own a copy of this charming and heart-warming masterpiece. Highly recommended.
- Film Information Booklet
- Scenes from the Director's Cut
- Director's Credits
- Arrow Films Catalogue