Cinema Paradiso, written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
10 out of 10
This is one of the best motion pictures that one can see, winner of some of the most important, prestigious awards in the industry – Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globe and BAFTA in the same category, BAFTAs for Best Actor – Philippe Noiret – Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Screenplay, finally, The Grand Prize of the Jury at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.
Critics have loved this masterpiece, giving it an average rating of 80 out of 100, the public rated it at 8.5 out of 10 and placed it at 54 in the hierarchy of best motion pictures from the perspective of the audiences – seeing as there might be an Oscar for most popular film, it would get one, if it opened this year.
Cinema Paradiso is a celebration of the…Cinema, with almost all the action taking place in and around the theater where people see the magic moving pictures in a village in Sicily, Italy.
Philippe Noiret, one of the greatest actors of all time, has the leading role of Alfredo, a projectionist in the Cinema Paradiso, a wise man that has learned so many famous lines from the glorious films with giants like James Stewart, Jean Gabin, Brigitte Bardot, Ingrid Bergman, Vittorio de Sica and so many other legendary gods of the big screen.
The other major protagonist of the film is Salvatore “Toto” Di Vita, portrayed by three actors, corresponding childhood, teenage years and finally the adult man, who receives at the start of the movie the news of the death of his longtime friend, Alfredo, and then recalls scenes from the past.
Salvatore is a famous film director when he gets the news, a career, in fact a calling that he has been helped to choose by his presence in front of the big screen, where he could watch the most accomplished artists in the world.
Alfredo is a mentor, father figure, friend who protects the child – defends him when he makes a mistake, has no money for the ticket, has been late home – and in exchange so to say, the child saves his life.
In the old days of cinema, the film used to project the motion pictures on the screen where highly inflammable and although the hero has the technique to avoid fires, one night there is nothing he can do when a calamity takes place and first the film, then the clothes of the projectionist and the whole cinema are in flames.
Alfredo has just tried a generous, cultural act, by projecting the film outside the building, on the wall of a building on the square, where a comical man is bedazzled to walk on his balcony and see he is in the middle of a movie, but as he does that, the hero becomes a victim.
The child comes up to the projection room, sees that his friend is on fire and about to expire if nothing is done about it, with phenomenal bravery, outstanding dedication, surreal effort, he drags the otherwise soon to die man out of the room and on to the stairs.
For a while, the public feels that this Super Man stunt has all been in vain, and the severely burnt protagonist has succumbed to his serious wounds, for we do not see him, up to the point where he comes to the Cinema and we see he has lost his eyesight and he is blind now.
Although a drama with one tragedy announced in the beginning – the death of the hero – and then the calamity of the fire, there are many amusing scenes and characters: the priest who acts as the local censor for the love scenes.
Father Adelfio comes to the cinema to watch the films before they are available for the villagers, whenever there is a kiss, he signals it, Alfredo marks the spot on the reel with paper, then cuts the passage and sets it aside, because when he sends the reels back, he has to restore the cuts.
At one point, he gives some of the fragments which have not been restored in the original to the would be director, but alas, a small fire is started at his home too and his mother comes to punish the boy, who is defended by the projectionist who takes the blame.
The motion pictures represent culture, entertainment and bring light, happiness, information, a whole different world, feelings, emotions, amusement – they all laugh when they see Charlie Chaplin, Alfredo Sordi and other sacred monsters – to the simple villagers who see–some of them – Cinema Paradiso as a Temple.
Evidently, there are moments when what happens inside is not aspiring to drink the ambrosia and nectar with the Gods of cinema, some of the teenagers are so aroused by intimacy on the screen – even with heavy editing done at the order of Father Adelfio – that they masturbate in their seats.
Salvatore falls in love when he becomes a young man – maybe one should say a teenager actually – only the girl he likes seems to be out of his league, or at least her parents think that way.
Her family is rich, Salvatore is very poor and although the two love each other, her parents make every effort to take her away from what they see as a bad influence, a potential damaging relationship and perhaps failed marriage.
Without details that may constitute a spoiler alert, one could just say that Alfredo would play a vital role in this love story, even if the message might be that creation, art needs sacrifice and in order to become a great artist, creator, one has to sacrifice feelings, love itself maybe.