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'Cinema Paradiso' [Blu-ray]
(Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, et al / 2-Disc Blu ray / NR / (1988) 2017 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: Giuseppe Tornatore's loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.

Blu-ray Verdict: From beginning to end, 'Cinema Paradiso' is, of course, about various forms of love, but my favorite element of the story is not just the way movies are portrayed, but the way old movies are portrayed. I have a particular fondness of older films (and a particular distaste for the shallow, exploitative and unimaginative garbage constantly cranked out by Hollywood these days), and one of the biggest themes of this film is the loss of purity and truth and innocence that movies once had.

Obviously, I'm not talking about the glory days when kissing scenes were edited out of the projected version of a film, but the days when even a film that had the kissing and even minor, minor nudity scenes cut out of them would still draw a frantic crowd so eager to see films that they would sit for 30 minutes waiting for the second half the begin. Today, audiences would be up and asking for refunds within five minutes, and if there was no sex or explosions or car chases in the movie, many of them wouldn't be there in the first place, which is truly sad and is exactly what this movie rails against.

I particularly loved the scene where Toto finally goes back home when he learns about the death of Alfredo (which would have been a spoiler, except that you learn of Alfredo's death within the first five or ten minutes of the movie), and his mother tells him that just before he died, Alfredo asked her not to tell Toto, not to ask him to come back. In the next scene Toto is walking through the ruins of the Cinema Paradiso and sees how cruel time has been to it and, even worse, how cheap and derivative the movies have become that are now played there.

Alfredo didn't want Toto to come back because he saw what movies were becoming, and that is a direct message to the film industry the likes of which has never been seen like this. 'Cinema Paradiso' owns that message, and it's one of my favorite lessons about film history. This is a Widescreen presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:

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