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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Film > WWII > Italy > Holocaust > Genocide > Stage > Political Prisoner > Torture > Canada > Jo > Cinema Paradiso (1988/Miramax/Lionsgate U.S. Blu-ray)/Life Is Beautiful (1997/Miramax/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Incendies (2010/Sony Blu-ray + DVD)/To Be Twenty (1978/Raro Video DVD Set)

Cinema Paradiso (1988/Miramax/Lionsgate U.S. Blu-ray)/Life Is Beautiful (1997/Miramax/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Incendies (2010/Sony Blu-ray + DVD)/To Be Twenty (1978/Raro Video DVD Set)


Picture: B-/B-/B & C/C+     Sound: B-/B/B & C+/C     Extras: C-/C/B/B-     Films: B/C/B/B-



Our latest set of foreign film releases are all interesting titles of note.  First we have the second Blu-ray edition of Cinema Paradiso (1988) to look at, this time the U.S. Miramax/Lionsgate U.S. edition.  We recently reviewed the Australian Blu-ray version at this link:




Both offer the same short “International Version” and this edition includes a trailer and menus, but it does not totally outperform the previous Blu-ray.  More on that in a moment below.



Despite all the awards and box office Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful (1997) received, I found it to be a very problematic film.  The story of a man and his son living happily in Italy until they are deported to a Nazi Concentration Camp is not intentionally disrespectful, but the film is overly simple, wants to have some kind of happy ending (or partially so) that does not ring true and avoids dealing with the genocide and despite Benigni’s talents, cannot overcome predictability and strange sentimentality.  It has a strategy where the first few reels have to do with how happy their life is, then the Nazis arrive and you can guess the rest.  It has not aged well, but also has managed to take with it many similar Holocaust films that people liked upon release, but don’t remember or talk about.  At least it is ambitious and the money is in the production.  Extras include Academy Award TV Commercials, Theatrical Trailer and the featurette Making Life Beautiful.



The Academy Award Best Foreign Film nominee Incendies (2010) is an amazing film based on the play by Wajdi Mouawad about a brother (who wants to just forget about the past entirely) and sister whose mother passes.  Instead of leaving a simple will, she leaves a mystery through a friend who instead offers them two envelopes.  One is for their father they never knew they had and the other is a brother they did not know existed.  However, it will not be as simple as a visit for she must travel from Canada to the Middle East and this is fraught with risks.  The more she discovers, the more bizarre it gets, but much more follows up to its powerful conclusion, a great cast and Writer/Director Denis Villeneuve is one of the best films of the year.  The story is one 0f the ultimate statements on what is wrong with The Middle East that is unique from the rest of the world, yet the tale has a universality about it, though it could happen anywhere and anyone.  Fine filmmaking worth going out of your way for, I was very impressed.  Extras include BD Live interactive functions, Remembering The Ashes: Through Their Eyes featurette and feature length audio commentary track by Villeneuve.



Finally we have another film by Fernando Di Leo from Raro Video.  To Be Twenty (1978) has had several editions because of censorship issues, but it is a very interesting film and one worth taking out the time to see both versions of.  Essentially, two beautiful young ladies (Gloria Guida and Lilli Carati) meet and find out they have much in common towards the end of the counterculture.  It is a comedy with some sexuality and even offers more highly charged political humor in the Italian version that usual.  However, there is a big twist in the last reel that wants to be a surprise, make a big statement and be shocking, yet it is not as surprising considering the content that preceded it despite being a comedy with the liberated brand of sexuality and nudity.


The U.S. edition actually takes that final reel and recycles it as a totally different incident, then moves on to make the film an even more sex and nudity emphasized film as the dubbing dumps almost all the political dialogue and with few hints of politics trivializes it.  Also, new music and more music have been added to make it more of a fun teen movie romp of the time.  This works in its own way, but is absolutely a trashing of the original film.  However, it is amusing in its own ways and I am glad it was included here.


Extras include that U.S. version of the film on a second DVD, a nicely illustrated booklet that includes technical info and analysis by Nathaniel Thompson, Bio/Filmography text, Photo Gallery, Original Screenplay and Twenty Years For A Massacre documentary.  This is definitely a set worth going out of your way for.



The 1080p 1.66 X 1 Paradiso and 1.85 X 1 Life digital High Definition image transfers are from older HD masters and this results in the image looking older and softer.  As compared to the 1.78 X 1 HD Australian Blu-ray, this new Paradiso disc is clearer, a little sharper, a little brighter, has some more depth and detail, but comes up short in color accuracy and color range.  The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Incendies is best with fine color, depth and definition without the usual color gutting and other embarrassing embellishments we are seeing on far too many films.  Director of Photography André Turpin does an impressive job of bringing a varied, believable visual style throughout the film, but the anamorphically enhanced DVD also included is no match for the Blu-ray.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on both versions of Twenty look good, but the slightly shorter, reedited U.S. version actually has better depth, clarity, detail and notable color throughout to the point that some of that footage should have been edited into the original Italian version as this is a good looking film.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Life and Incendies are fine performers throughout, though more surprising for the older Life, these are impressive soundtracks for dramas with so much dialogue.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Paradiso has a little more clarity, detail and depth than the standard DTS on the Australian Blu-ray, but the sound is too much towards the front channels still, so we can only hope the film will sound more dynamic when longer cuts arrive on Blu-ray down the line.  That leaves Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in both Italian and English dub on Twenty that more than show their age with some distortion, obvious looping in



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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