Writing in July 2020, several recent and upcoming events inspired us to think about Cinema Paradiso, one of the greatest movies about the love of movies ever made and a feature created to be viewed on a big screen. Sadly, the passing of Ennio Morricone in early July 2020 marked a sad occasion for all film and music lovers. Ennio composed hundreds of soundtracks and was a true master of the art. Together with his son Andrea Morricone, he also composed the music for Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso, which released in 1988 and was directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.
Additionally, a 4K HDR Blu-ray of Cinema Paradiso was announced after Mr. Morricone’s passing for release in September 2020. Loaded with special features, the disc offers support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision, plus superb surround sound to do justice to the Morricones’ beautiful compositions. Until the disc releases, Cinema Paradiso remains available in 1080p SDR as a DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD purchase or stream. This will be its first 4K HDR home release.
If you have a 4K projector with HDR, then when the disc comes you really owe it to yourself to take in this heart-warming and evergreen ode to movie making, storytelling, and humanity in general.
Just as it’s been over 30 years since the film’s release, director Tornatore wrote Cinema Paradiso as commentary on the passage of time. In his case, it was also a largely autobiographical tale, centered on a movie director who goes back to his home town in Sicily after several decades away. The main character, Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) soon begins to reminisce and retell the story of how he fell in love with movies during the tumultuous days of the Second World War. We meet a young Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) as he befriends the projectionist and owner of a local movie theater, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret). Alfredo reveals worlds of magic to Salvatore on the silver screen, guiding the youngster as together they revel in the beauty of story telling and the art of filmmaking.
Cinema Paradiso is one of those rare works of art that is both a tribute to its field and evidence as to why that realm of creativity has so much to offer. It’s a celebration of movies and worthy of celebration on its own. The entire plot revolves around the magical sensation of motion pictures and their power to bring people together. Equally, Cinema Paradiso speaks of inspiration and how art and stories mold our lives, often to the point of directing one’s career and lifelong choices.
Just as Alfredo serves as a father to Salvatore and encourages the child to excel at whatever he ends up choosing to do in life, so does Cinema Paradiso stand relentless in its devotion to the power of story. Of course, Blasco Giurato did a great job with the cinematography here, but Cinema Paradiso isn’t a bombastic-looking film. Rather, it seems at once realistic and magical, with warm colors and a homey feel that draws audiences into the story, whether watching the “barebones” two-hour international release or the comprehensive three-hour director’s cut.
Fair warning, Cinema Paradiso arrives with a soundtrack that’s more than likely to make you cry openly. Composed and orchestrated by Ennio Morricone and his son Andrea, the music works wonders as accompaniment to such an emotionally-charged and human story. Sweeping, emotive…the adjectives to describe the soundtrack could keep flying around all day. Suffice to say, it’s beautiful. Very different from Ennio’s famous wild west and mafioso works, Cinema Paradiso pulls on the heart strings with purity and no undue melodrama. You most assuredly need good headphones or speakers to fully appreciate the many nuances of the soundtrack, from playful to somberly nostalgic.
Typically the domain of cinematheques and movie clubs these days, it’s hard to remember that in the late 1980’s Cinema Paradiso was quite the mainstream hit and helped maintain the popularity of Italian-language films. We therefore wholeheartedly recommend Cinema Paradiso, especially if you’re still on the fence regarding a home cinema projector. It’s the textbook definition of a must-watch, and warrants your undivided attention, especially once available in 4K HDR.