After receiving the news about the death of an old friend, a filmmaker named Salvatore Di Vita returns to his childhood home in a Sicilian village. Upon his return, “Toto” reminisces on his youth, where he spent much of his time in the village’s local theater, and formed a strong bond with the projectionist Alfredo. Through Alfredo, Toto not only learns about the magic of the movies, but also what life has to offer him outside of what can be seen on screen.
Life isn’t like in the movies. Life…is much harder.
Cinema Paradiso was one of those films that I’ve been meaning to check out for a long time, and it’s one of my blind spots this year that has been on my to-watch list for the longest time. So I ended up watching the nearly 3-hour director’s cut; I have no idea if it’s better than what was shown theatrically, but I do know that Giuseppe Tornatore’s version featured a couple of my favorite scenes that weren’t included in the original cut. And not one minute is wasted in the longer version, as the movie shows Toto in his formative years. Of course, this movie is basically a love letter to cinema, but it’s much more than that. It touches on the importance of unconditional love through family and friends, and how they shape a person. There are scenes filled with pure happiness, utter sadness, and just about every other emotion in between. Cinema Paradiso is a film full of life’s great moments; even if they’re not so great in the moment, they’re sometimes what make us who we are in retrospect.
Some of my favorite movies are movies about, well, the movies. Movies like Cinema Paradiso remind me of why I love cinema so much, from watching them in the comfort of my home or in a theater full of strangers. There’s something about leaving the reality of your life for a couple of hours and sharing emotions with other people from what’s being shown in front of your eyes. What I love about Cinema Paradiso is how it highlights the communal aspect of going to the movies. There’s a few scenes in the film that show the local theater packed full of the rich and poor alike, and they’re all there for the same reason. Even if they may come from different backgrounds, they all laugh at the same gags and cry at the tender moments. Movies can really bring people together, no matter the circumstance.
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore
Starring: Philippe Noiret, Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, Jacques Perrin
Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film (Italy) [WON]