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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Film > WWII > Italy > Animation > Magician > Satire > Stage > Travel > French > Cinema Paradiso (1988/Umbrella Region Free Blu-ray Import) + The Illusionist (animated/2010/Tati/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)

Cinema Paradiso (1988/Umbrella Region Free Blu-ray Import) + The Illusionist (animated/2010/Tati/Sony Blu-ray w/DVD)

 

Picture: B-/B & C+†††† Sound: B-/B+ & B-†††† Extras: D/C+†††† Films: B (short version)/B+

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: The Paradiso Blu-ray import is Region Free, will play on all Blu-ray players worldwide and can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review, while The Illusionist is a U.S. Region A release available at finer stores everywhere.

 

 

Hollywood has a very tired formula they have been using to portray the wonderment of childhood that never rings true, is phony and existed long before the feel-good movies of Lucas & Spielberg, though their work led to the formula being remixed.There are exceptions (the 1939 Wizard Of Oz to some extent, for instance), but the qualities of the formula include assumptions of the world being safer than it is, a sense of ďmagicĒ that is laughable & forced and sense of family that is also phony and unrealistic.

 

On the other hand, some films are so great about dealing with the relationship of childhood, reality, growing up and the big world we really live in that any magic they have happens with ease based on what they have to say and we have two such releases on Blu-ray that demonstrate this.

 

 

After all the DVD versions of Giuseppe Tornatoreís Cinema Paradiso (1988) issued in the U.S., now all out of print thanks to Disney selling off Miramax, it is hard to believe the Best Foreign Film Academy Award Winner has yet to be issued on Blu-ray.Enter Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, issuing a Region Free Blu-ray Import of the shortest of the three versions of the film (124 minutes versus 155 for the expanded version and 174 for the Italian version!) but even this shorter cut still works.

 

The film begins when Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) returns to the hometown of his childhood because his old friend and film mentor Alfredo (Philippe Noiret in a great performance as successful worldwide as any in his long career) passes on.The film then reverts to flashback as we learn how a very young Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) came to love films of the world at the movie theater of the title, a place of community that would challenge The Church, survive classical fascism and be the place of dreams and a window to the world for the town as he grew up.

 

This takes up the majority of the film, including when Salvatore (also called Toto in a multi-pronged innertextual reference) grow into young adulthood (Marco Leonardi) and becomes as much a character study of the people as it is about the town, our world, changes in life that constantly ring true and constantly honest about living.I had not seen the film in a while and was amazed how much of its power it retained.

 

This was only Tornatoreís second feature film and really is a masterwork that has become somewhat forgotten and remains underrated.It is time for the film to be revisited and as it approaches its 25th Anniversary, hopefully it will.Sadly, there are no extras here.

 

 

Not to be confused with the underappreciated Ed Norton film, Sylvan Chometís The Illusionist (2010) is an animated film that does something incredible that would have been unthinkable and still is in most cases: brings to life another work of the late, great comic cinema genius Jacques Tati!

 

A writer, director, magician and mime among his many talents, Tati became the Charles Chaplin of French Cinema and its New Wave with masterworks like Jour De Fete, Mr. Hulotís Holiday, Mon Oncle and his 70mm masterpiece PlayTime.For those unfamiliar, definitely start at this link for his films on Blu-ray and DVD:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10567/Les+Vacances+de+Monsieur+Hulot

 

After he went bankrupt making PlayTime, he only could afford to make to more features, the last of which was on TV on videotape.It was always felt he had more to say and did not get a chance to say or show it.That includes films we will never have the chance or privilege of seeing.However, he left some unfinished writings behind and that included a script meant as a tribute and love letter to his real life daughter Sophie, who has done a brilliant job championing his work, saving it and preserving it.Chomet (The Triplets Of Belleville) got the rights (et al) and he has made in into a hilarious, haunting and sometimes brilliant animated feature that shocked the industry by doing some business and outdoing many multi-million dollar CG productions by landing a Best Animated Feature Academy Award nomination and rightly so!

 

The title character (drawn brilliantly to look, feel and even behave as Tati would (voiced here by Jean-Claude Donda when necessary), even if he were not playing Mr. Hulot) is a traveling magician trying to make a living and survive a changing world where new forms of stage entertainment (and soon new media) are starting to push good people like himself out of the way.He plays whatever venues will have him, but also knows the world and tries to enjoy it as much as he can.He is also not the only performer suffering through the changes.

 

In Scotland, he meets a young lady named Alice (voiced by Eilidh Rankin) who has yet to start seeing the world, has not had the chances she deserves and still has an unspoiled sense of wonder, so he takes her under his wing to show her sides of life she will love and appreciate, ones most people today miss and the kind Tatiís actual films showed us and continue to show us to this day.

 

The uses of silence are clever, the script top rate and the animation hand drawn with some digital work that enhances instead of distracts from the final results.Like Paradiso, this is a very special work with priceless things to see, day and share with its audience and the relationship between young and old is among the healthiest in cinema history.I loved this film and hope it becomes a long term favorite of film and animation fans worldwide as more people see it.

 

Anyone who says they love animation cannot discount The Illusionist without showing they lack an understanding of the art form.Here, Chomet pays tribute to a master while proving once again to be one of the best directors of animation in the world.Go out of your way for this one.

 

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Paradiso (originally a 1.66 X 1 film as we have seen noted in several places) is from a print that has some minor flaws, but darker scenes with their lack of detail, depth and black crush hold back an otherwise fine transfer which especially shines in its daytime shots and color range.This includes some amazing demo shots that easily represent the best representation of the film since I saw it on 35mm in its original theatrical release.The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Illusionist also does a great job of capturing what I saw in its 35mm film presentation, though some outlets showed it in digital projection.An even better transfer than Paradiso, as you would expect from a newer film, this is one of those Blu-rays that looks better the larger the screen you seen it on and I still wonder if even the Blu-ray has captured all the details like when I see Akira (1988) on Blu-ray.Either way, it is often stunning as it is accurate and the anamorphically enhanced DVD included is about as good as it can be, but the older format simply cannot complete.

 

While the case credits Paradiso as having a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, the actual sound is a standard Italian DTS 5.1 track, but that is not awful.Still, the film was originally issued regular analog Dolby A-type analog noise reduction and has its sound coming more from the front channels than anything else.This is still warmer than any of the DVD releases Iíve heard (the many, for the record) and the score by Ennio Morricone is another unforgettable effort that furthers the filmís greatness.

 

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Illusionist may have its silent moments, but has an exceptionally smart, rich, articulate, clever and wide-ranging use of sound that will surprise and even stun those who might underestimate the film.The recording quality is superior and the anyone with a home theater system will be very impressed.The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is not bad and active enough, but the lossy format is no match for the DTS-HD version.

 

Though Paradiso has no extras or even menus, Illusionist has BD Live interactive features, a fine Making Of featurette and The Animation Process: A Rare Look at the Line Tests and Progression Sequences.Nice to see the artform of animation lives.

 

 

As noted above, you can order the Paradiso Blu-ray import exclusively from Umbrella at:

 

http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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