Table of Contents
The film of a young Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore Cinema Paradiso passed a thorny path from its creation in 1988 to the Hollywood “Oscar" award, as the best foreign language film in 1989. Its path was also instructive because it reflects the current trends and attitudes of Western movies.
In the Cinema Paradiso, Tornatore discusses a part of his own life, his biography, his soul, and hopes. It is a film about a child, fascinated by the magic of cinema, he wants to understand its secrets, so, becomes a projectionist, and after many years, from a teenager Toto he grows into a director Salvatore De Vita.
Discussion and Storytelling
One in the evening, sitting in his wealthy apartment in Rome, aged De Vita receives a call from his mother from hometown in Sicily. She reports the death of the projectionist, Alfredo, who once uncovered De Vita the secrets of his craft and who shared with him the overall insane passion for cinema. The famous director returns to his homeland to attend the funeral ceremony. And there, he recalls his past. With a heartbreaking pain, he recalls his impoverished childhood, his first unhappy love, and frozen in grief mother ‒ a military widow. The life of a Sicilian provincial town with its social working weekdays passes before his eyes. Nevertheless, upon this unsightly view, there is a Paradiso Cinema ‒ a paradise for a teenage boy, a young man Salvatore, where his friendship with old Alfredo – the illiterate philosopher ‒ rises.
Alfredo expresses himself mainly with quotations from film dialogues, which he knows by heart. Alfredo is an old grumbler, who is also in love with the movies, like Salvatore. They both form a beautiful duet: a friendship of an old generation with a young one is touching. The viewer sees that Alfredo teaches the boy not only the love for his craft but also a worldly wisdom. I enjoyed the stories he tells, especially the parable about one hundred days. It reminded me that happiness one expects not true happiness. Happiness does not come in a certain period of time (a hundred days of vigil by the window of the Princess). It is in every hour, every moment, and every action committed for its approach.
Alfredo suffers because he is not the creator of the films. But he does not realize that without his efforts, a film strip is only a useless thing on a shelf, and that only his work makes viewers and the boy Toto a little different each time they watch a movie.
A wise, experienced projectionist Alfredo in a stunning performance of Philippe Noiret says that life is more complicated than it is described in movies. Well, he is right, and, indeed, life, and human destiny often surprise with such plot moves that the only thing left is to amuse. I have immensely enjoyed another thought of Noiret hero that a strong, big love can only become dust. He is right again because there is a lot of examples of all-consuming passion and love which end with sorrow or even tragedy. Symbolically, in the end, after a fire in the old cinema, Alfredo loses his sight, and Salvatore takes his place at the projector.
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The sincerity and kindness are particularly impressive in the first half of the film ‒ the story about childhood and the first meetings with the movie art. Touching, but not sentimental scenes where little Toto assemble some mechanics when he finally manages to get into projectionist booth. The reels of films become toys to him. He denies himself ice cream and candies to afford to buy a ticket for each new film on the screen of "Paradiso." Stone lions make a particularly strong impression on Toto when they are animated for a moment on the screen. Thus, he meets classic movies. In summer, film screens from the closed auditoria are brought to an open-air cinema, and all who do not have money to watch movies can enjoy them for free.
Later, Salvatore, played by a young actor Marco Leonardi, falls in love with a girl whose noble parents do not let her marry the projectionist. Therefore, he joins the military. Now, Jacques Perrin ‒ a beautiful and youthful French actor ‒ appears on the screen. Salvatore has become a well-known director who donates money for the restoration of the "Paradiso", so that his favorite cinema does not become a regular supermarket or a disco club. Perhaps, the appearance of the charming actor is the only false note in the whole film. Somehow, it is hard to believe that a movie fanatic, sensitive and melancholic Toto, could grow into this graying spoiled by success lion, who has forgotten about his native town, old mother, and friend Alfredo for such a long time. Most likely he had to become similar to Tornatore ‒ a nervous, cocky person, who knows his own worth, but at the same time, is kind and modest, a typical provincial intellectual, sheer cinema enthusiast.
This movie convinces once again that the true art has no borders, no time limits. The story told by means of cinematograph is as old as the world. The life of different generations, who went to the same theater, experienced the same emotions and the same revelations, are successfully described in this movie. One of the ideas of the film is a requiem for the good old times when cinema show was of a collective, choral character, when people went to the movies instead of sitting apart, each in front of their own TV screen.
So, the spirit of this Tornatore film is undoubtedly nostalgic. It is a sad memory of those times when people went to the cinema to watch good movies, when people could be fanatically devoted to cinematograph – both the filmmakers and the audience. All material things someday might be destroyed but the memory is eternal.