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Cinema Paradiso (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


In Giuseppe Tornatore's semi-autobiographical homage to cinema, a successful filmmaker recalls his youth in Sicily, falling in love, and learning about film and cinema in the town's central cinema under the tutelage of its wise and much older film projectionist in this heartfelt, beautifully shot film. The 4K Ultra HD and its new restoration from Arrow Video are the perfect way to watch this modern day classic.

Cinema Paradiso 4K Ultra HD (Arrow Video)Cinema Paradiso was Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore’s semi-autobiographical paean to film and its influence on his coming of age. The story is set in a small village in post-war Italy. As a successful Roman filmmaker is about to embark on a journey back to the small village for the funeral of his friend, he recalls his childhood there, growing up under the tutelage of the local titular cinema’s projectionist and developing a great love of film, to the detriment of all other things in his life. We see his failure at romance with his first love, Elena (Agnese Nano) who will go on to break his heart right before he leaves for a turn in the military and finally, how he becomes the cinema’s projectionist before leaving the village for good, even abandoning his despondent mother for years. Tornatore infuses the film with a seamless sampling of great films from the golden age of filmmaking; they are lovingly integrated into the storyline as he explores love, romance, childhood and coming of age.

Some might consider Tornatore’s film syrupy or saccharine, but his directorial handling of this material is done with such reverence and such a beautiful visual aesthetic that it overcomes this minor flaw and, in doing so, transcends the very works of art he is seeking to emulate and pay tribute to. The style is wholly European and Italian, less linear than it is freeform and willing to traverse various timelines in order to reach its conclusion and invoke its emotional response.

There is also a director’s cut from Tornatore’s that adds an additional 51-minutes of footage that, rather than weigh the film down, only serves to allow it to take flight even more, reaching new fanciful heights.  The 4K presentation is the theatrical version only, which is the classic version and the preferred version of many. It’s an emotionally pure and honest journey from a filmmaker truly in love with his art and the teachers that came before him. The included Blu-ray in this particular release contains the aforementioned Director’s Cut.

The Video

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc for Cinema Paradiso is a new 4K restoration of the theatrical version of the film taken from the original camera negative, supervised by Giuseppe Tornatore and is presented here in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio in a HEVC 2160p (4K) encodement with Dolby Vision. Like the other recent 4K release from Arrow, Tremors, this one also has a very subtle use of Dolby Vision in that the peak highlights don’t ‘pop’ much, but Arrow and the filmmakers they are working with seem to taking the track of not reworking the visual aesthetic of the classic films to the point where they look very gimmicky but allowing the HDR to serve the purpose of the film from the creative perspective.

So, first things first. This restoration looks beautiful. I reviewed Arrow’s 25th Anniversary Edition UK Blu-ray and it looked awesome compared to the US release from Miramax. Now, Arrow, who are finally also releasing in North America, are back with a new release of this title and they have outdone themselves again. The film grain and detail all look wonderful while the picture is also quite clean without hints of smoothing or smearing. There are only the very rare glimpse of faint tramlines, which is to be expected from the 35mm film source.

And on to that Dolby Vision. You won’t see lots of ‘pop’ and brilliant highlights in every frame watching this film, but you will see more lifelike colors, nuanced shadow details, and when need be, the highlights do ‘pop.’ Just check out Chapter 7 starting around the 52-minute mark for a glimpse of all of these things. This is the scene right near the end of the sequence when Alfredo is projecting the film into the public square and the beginning of the fire in the Paradiso. Here, you will see the wonderful shadow details, the brilliant amber glow from the window, and also the three-dimensional ‘pop’ of the flames in the cinema.

The included Blu-ray that has the Director’s Cut, which I was not sent, is said to be from a “2K restoration.” I cannot confirm this, but I would assume that is the same 2K restoration that the 25th Anniversary release from Arrow used. If anyone has any other details on that, feel free to email or @ me.

The Audio

Cinema Paradiso arrives with Italian LPCM 1.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mixes. The original 1.0 mono mix sounds great given the format, but the 5.1remix is like a better, spiffed up version of the monaural mix, really. It is not aggressive in the panning, mixes most of the sound into the center channel with only very subtle ambience placed into the other channels for mild spaciousness and clarity. It stays true to the mono while sounding just a little fuller and offering just barely noticeable stereo panning.

The Supplements

Cinema Paradiso on 4K Ultra HD comes with port-overs of Arrow’s bonus features from their 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the film.

  • Blu-ray featuring Director’s Cut in 1080p and Director’s Cut trailer
  • Audio commentary with Giuseppe Tornatore and Millicent Marcus
  • A Dream of Sicily (1080p/24; 00:54:47) – 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 (1080i; 00:27:28) – 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 (1080i; 00:07:03) – Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
  • 25th Anniversary Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p 00:01:42)
  • Slipcover
  • Insert with upcoming Arrow releases
  • Booklet with essay by Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone, illustrated with original archive stills.

The Final Assessment

A beautiful film gets a beautiful 4K restoration and transfer from Arrow Video. This is a much-welcomed release by cinephiles, and one highly recommended by this reviewer.

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Cinema Paradiso is on 4K Ultra HD Combo December 8, 2020 from Arrow Video

  • Rating Certificate: R (for some sexuality)
  • Studios & Distributors: Cristaldifilm | Les Films Ariane | Rai 3 | TF1 Films Production | Forum Picture | Arrow Video
  • Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
  • Run Time: 124 mins (Theatrical Edition) | 174 Mins. (Director’s Cut)
  • Street Date: 8 December 2020
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (Compatible with HDR10)
  • Primary Audio: Italian LPCM 1.0
  • Secondary Audio: Italian English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: UK English | US English

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In Giuseppe Tornatore's semi-autobiographical homage to cinema, a successful filmmaker recalls his youth in Sicily, falling in love, and learning about film and cinema in the town's central cinema under the tutelage of its wise and much older film projectionist in this heartfelt, beautifully shot film. The 4K Ultra HD and its new restoration from Arrow Video are the perfect way to watch this modern day classic.Cinema Paradiso (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)