Kiss Clips

Cinema Paradiso revels in its own schmaltz. It’s a lot to take, treating theaters as places where people escape war, laugh, cry, find love, make love, die, and form lifetime bonds. Like the films shown on its Italian screen, Cinema Paradiso sees life as a movie. Existence, but entirely on celluloid.

While the romance and characters haven’t changed, seeing Cinema Paradiso today hits differently. In 1988, Cinema Paradiso mourned the advent of VHS, and how small theaters closed as people stayed home. Now, theatrical features stream directly to homes, and a pandemic signaled what might be the theater’s death knell. And there’s so much “film” in this film, strung through projectors, creating an odd intimacy and attachment to cinema’s physicality. That’s no longer the case. Projectionists rarely exist now; it’s a lost art, preserved in Cinema Paradiso.

Cinema Paradiso celebrates the social element as much as movies themselves

That matters. An obnoxiously repetitive score drowns numerous scenes in mawkish vibes, lessening Cinema Paradiso’s allure. While not ignoring the struggles around this small village’s theater – there’s war, communism, and crime – at times it’s all too playful. A teacher battering a student who can’t remember multiplication is intended for laughs. That abuse comes from a “good old days” nostalgia, and shown from a child’s perspective, making it particularly cruel.

Sanctuary is the same for everyone. A movie screening brings in the entire town, just to share in that moment, to escape whatever is outside. Cinema Paradiso celebrates the social element as much as movies themselves. Kids grow up, staring at black & white images bounced off a screen, and you can see the imagination in young Toto’s (Salvatore Cascio) eyes.

Toto and the kindly projectionist Alfredo (Phillipe Noiret) bond in the booth, turning their unlikely relationship into a Pinnochio-esque fable. Alfredo never had children, and after much protesting from Toto, brings the boy in to help. They share an odd connection, even a fascination with film stock. Alfredo realizes his mistake, locked inside that small, overheated room, isolated from the outside. Movies took that from him. Even Alfredo’s advice comes quoted from John Wayne-starring westerns. When he shoos a 20-something Toto out of town, it’s compassion. Obsession leads to regret.

Manipulative as it is, Cinema Paradiso’s somber finish sees the theater destroyed, and a film reel loaded with previously banned kissing scenes. It’s hard not to feel something, that score again cranked up full, dressing the lighted images in what’s already heavy sentimentalism. Toto wonders what might have been, if this was the life for him. Regret hurts, and movies losing the theater will likely make us all Totos.

Video

It’s hard looking further than Arrow’s sensationally gorgeous color grading to see how great everything else is. Covered in inviting warm earth tones, the locations gain in beauty. Concrete brick buildings saturate naturally, organically pure, even if touched by modern tools. Amid these sights, primaries bloom, skewed warm, but enriched. If any disc makes a case for what deep color can accomplish – not just make things brighter – Cinema Paradiso is it.

Precise compression works out a hefty grain structure. Noisier shadows pose no issue. Behind that, sharpness and detail thrive endlessly. There’s so much discovered texture in this 4K debut, it feels new. Facial definition soars, marvelously defined. Same with building exteriors, displayed to their tiniest details. Dirt and mud produce superb eye candy for anyone appreciating 35mm’s potential.

A softened hand approaches Dolby Vision, bold, but not overcranked. A projector light glistens as it nears the screen, the bulb appearing hearty. Fire brings out maximum brightness. Black levels only reach a lighter density, lacking luster. The cinema reaches adequate darkness, keeping the cinematography choices intact, if missing a greater potential for eye candy. Accuracy natters.

Audio

An uncompressed 5.1 PCM track is included, but stick with mono. It’s pleasingly clean, plus pure in the highs. There’s no fidelity loss. Cinema Paradiso sounds practically new.

While minimized in range (expect nothing from the low-end, leaving the score flattened), overall performance counts for a lot. Like elements of the video, this serves as a great example of what modern formats can do, even to simple tracks like this.

Extras

Included with the 4K theatrical cut disc, director Gisseppe Tornatore and Millicent Marcus add a commentary track. A Dream of Sicily runs 54-minutes, exploring Tornatore’s career and life in film. A making-of reaches 27-minutes, and in the next bonus, Tornatore breaks down the kissing sequence, noting the films used.

The extended cut is on Blu-ray only, and does not include any bonuses.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Cinema Paradiso
  • Video
  • Audio
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4

Movie

While overburdened with schmaltz and coated nostalgic, Cinema Paradiso finds new meaning amid a changing movie marketplace.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 59 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: