#129 Cinema Paradiso

Nuovo cinema Paradis
(1988, Giuseppe Tornatore)

“I don’t want to hear you anymore. I want to hear about you”

There’s always something odd about media about media. Take, for example, songs that talk about song writing. Anyone who’s heard Elton John’s “Your Song” or Spandau Ballet’s “True” (“why do I find it hard to write the next line?”) knows how self-indulgent and kinda silly some of these things can get. Why is this relevant today?

Well, because today we’re looking at a movie about movies. Specifically, a movie about how a popular Italian director was inspired by spending his early years in a cinema and befriending a kindly old projectionist who introduced him to the wonderful world of cinema, made by…an Italian director who spent much of his early life in theatre. Oh dear. This could be bad.

Fortunately, Cinema Paradiso isn’t that bad. It opens in the present day with the fictional director Salvatore Di Vita receiving a phone call from his mother about a man from his hometown named Alfredo dying recently, which gives him a huge flashback to his childhood thirty years ago (which is the bulk of the movie). Alfredo was the projectionist in the small local cinema, the Cinema Paradiso, who taught him the tricks of the trade and introduced him to his love of cinema and acted as a great mentor to the boy.

The entire movie is filmed through a rose-tinted filter. The fifties presented in the movie is a simple time where everyone was everyone else’s friend and small village life was quaint and tranquil. The problem with this tone is that much of the film feels like a fantasy version of reality, and while at times this is endearing, there are others time where it can feel a little twee.

The thing with Cinema Paradiso is that it doesn’t really have much of a direction. It’s not completely aimless, since it’s clearly meant to be a coming-of-age film about how a young boy discovers a passion that follows him through to adulthood, but generally, the plot is a little all over the place about it.

Things I liked? Alfredo was an excellent character, and it’s clear why he was such an inspiring man to young Salvatore (or Toto as he was known). I liked the continuous sub-plot about how much the local priest was determined to remove “questionable” scenes from the movies and how Toto helped shatter this. I felt the scenes towards the end of the movie when we return to the present day, where Toto returns home for the first time in years, were excellent too.

But I didn’t like everything. The need to squeeze a man’s entire life into ninety minutes often means there are times when the movie feels rushed. Alfredo’s insistence that Toto leave home and never come back in order to pursue his dreams felt slightly cheesy and mawkish, and my inner cynic just refused to buy into the ideals the movie was presenting. On top of that, the romantic sub-plot with a teenage Toto felt horribly unresolved and at times a little clichéd.

Cinema Paradiso overall is a nice film. “Nice” is pretty much the best description I can give. It’s well made and it has its sweet moments, but it does little to make itself stand out and just kind of plods along at its own pace. It’s “nice”, in the sense that “nice” doesn’t really offer any kind of commitment to an emotion one way or the other.

And that’s why I’m leaving the review here. There’s little else to say about it, unfortunately, and really, the movie just sits in a very average place.

Starring Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Antonella Attili, Pupella Maggio & Salvatore Cascio
Written by Giuseppe Tornatore
Produced by Franco Cristaldi
Music score by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Blasco Guirato
Edited by Mario Morra

Favourite Scene: The ending is immensely endearing when we see what Alfredo has left for Toto after his death.
Scene That Bugged Me: Oh, they’re kissing in the rain. What a highly original and not completely cheesy romance scene. And where the hell did she come from in the first place?!

Watch it if: You like movies about movies (Movieception)
Avoid it if: You’re allergic to twee

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Posted on October 23, 2012, in 1980s, Drama, Italy. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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