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'Cinema Paradiso' returns and other new DVD releases

Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press

With the current theatrical aversion to foreign-language films, would "Cinema Paradiso" have been a hit today? Sixteen years ago, Giuseppe Tornatore's romantic, melancholy memory movie about a boy sustained by movies and his friendship with a theater projectionist (the terrific Philippe Noiret ) in World War II Italy was not only critically acclaimed, but also a commercial success. It helped create the adult audience that sustains art houses today.

The new special edition of "Cinema Paradiso" (4 stars, Genius/Weinstein, $39.99) would seem definitive. It contains the version that became an international hit, as well as Tornatore's original cut, which was 50 minutes longer and a flop when it was released in Italy. In that version, the relationship of the adult Toto and his lost love, Lina, is finally resolved. The package includes a sentimental retrospective documentary, a Food network tribute with recipes and a CD of the original Ennio Morricone score.

Music is also central to one of the best French films of the 1990s, "Un coeur en hiver, " also known as "A Heart in Winter" (4 stars, Koch Lorber, $29.98). Director Claude Sautet's elegant, austere yet gripping 1993 drama is about a concert violinist (Emmanuelle Beart) who, while romantically involved with the co-owner (Andre Dussollier) of a violin repair shop, finds herself drawn to his emotionally repressed partner, played by Daniel Auteuil.

The violinist's favored composer is Ravel, and the trios and sonatas heard here are wiltingly beautiful, as is the film, which has been impeccably restored to its widescreen glory. Well-chosen extras include an excerpt from a documentary on Sautet, interviews and a perceptive four-page essay by French critic Michel Boujut.

If you missed the recent screening of British director Carol Reed's rarely seen 1948 adaptation of Graham Greene's short story "The Fallen Idol," you can take comfort in knowing that all that is sacrificed for the new DVD (4 stars, Criterion Collection, $29.95) is size.

The visual design of the psychological thriller - about the lonely young son of a diplomat whose devotion to the fatherly embassy butler (Sir Ralph Richardson ) leaves him not knowing how to respond when the man is accused of an unthinkable crime - is equal to that of Reed's far better known adaptation of "The Third Man."

There is, to be certain, nothing posh about Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's gritty, harrowing 1996 drama "Pusher" (3 stars) or its two sequels: 2004's "Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands" (3 stars) and 2005's "Pusher III: I'm the Angel of Death" (3 stars). They are violent yet absorbing excursions into the European drug underworld. All three films are collected as "The Pusher Trilogy" (Magnolia, $39.98, or individually for $19.98 each).

The first film focuses on low-level dealer Frank (Kim Bodnia), his pal Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) and a heroin deal gone bad that puts them in the sights of Balkan druglord Milo. "Pusher II" picks up the story of Tonny after a prison stretch, as he tries to cope with a kid who may or may not be his and his gangster father Duke.

"Pusher III" picks up the story of Milo, now middle-aged, addicted and trying to deal with the young street soldiers he can no longer trust. The films are often compared to early Scorsese, but there are also those "Soprano"-like light operatics that are, well, addictive.

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ALSO NEW THIS WEEK:

The polar opposites of masculine American acting are on display in the box sets "Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection" ($49.92) and "The Marlon Brando Collection" (Warner, $59.92).

The former collects the 2-disc "Sergeant York: Special Edition" (4 stars, also available separately for $26.99), Cooper's 1941 Oscar-winning portrayal of WWI's most celebrated hero, Alvin York; 1949's "The Fountainhead" (3 stars , available separately for $19.97), an adaptation of the Ayn Rand novel starring Cooper as idealistic architect Howard Roark; the 1952 western "Springfield Rifle" (3 stars); 1950's nautical adventure/mystery "The Wreck of the Mary Deare " (3 stars), and 1959's "Dallas" (3 stars).

The Brando set is anchored by the remake of "Mutiny on the Bounty: Special Edition" (3 stars, sold separately for $26.99) . It was slammed on its initial release in 1962 for Brando's portrayal of Fletcher Christian. You are likely to find no argument with Brando's portrayal of Marc Antony in Joseph L. Mankiewicz `s adaptation of "Julius Caesar" (4 stars, $19.97), which features James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius and Louis Calhern as the emperor. Exclusive to the set are the 1956 American occupation comedy "The Teahouse of the August Moon" (4 stars), where Brando apparently picked up his affection for kimonos; John Huston's 1967 adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (3 stars), and the ludicrous 1980 thriller "The Formula" (1 star), with Brando hamming it up for a few minutes with the film's real star, George C. Scott.

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TV ON DVD:

Two of the finest series in TV history have their final seasons and entire network runs boxed up this week:

"The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season" (Warner, $59.98) also is in the elegantly packaged "The Complete Series Collection" ($299.98 look for discounts in the $200 range).

"MASH - Season 11" (Fox, $39.98) and its lauded final episode are in the 32-disc "The Martinis & Medicine Collection" ($199.98, discounted to $150). It contains every episode of "MASH," the Robert Altman movie that inspired the show, a trivia game and tentfuls of extras.

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ALSO THIS WEEK:

"The Sopranos: Season Six, Part One" (HBO, $99.98); "Edward R. Murrow: The Best of `Person To Person'" (Koch Vision, $39.98); "The Best of Carson Volume 1" (R2, $39.99), three discs of Johnny Carson's memorable skits and interviews on "The Tonight Show"; "Beverly Hills 90210 - The Complete First Season" (Paramount, $54.99); "Melrose Place - The Complete First Season" (Paramount, $54.99) eight discs, 32 episodes, and "Police Squad: The Complete Series" (Paramount, $19.99) on one disc. There were only six episodes before it was reborn as "The Naked Gun" movies.

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FAMILY PICK OF THE WEEK:

The story of an arrogant race car (the voice of Owen Wilson) who learns a few lessons when he gets waylaid in a small town off the highway isn't the strongest part of "Cars" (4 stars, Disney, $29.99, look for discounts in the $20 range). The latest family comedy from Pixar is so clever, so visually dazzling and inventive, and so customized with great car characters (voiced by Bonnie Hunt, Paul Newman, Cheech Marin, Larry the Cable Guy and more) that it hardly matters. It looks terrific in wide-screen (can't wait for the Blu-ray) and includes two Pixar shorts as well as an interview with big-kid creator John Lasseter.

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