Cinema Paradiso (1988) Theatrical Cut

cinema1You can so easily get swamped by all the soul-less, money-grabbing amusement park rides masquerading as films these days and forget that there is a real art and magic in cinema. That there are such obscure concepts as plot, acting, characterisation, empathy, meaning… its not all loud explosions, frenetic action, effects-laden spectacle. Thank goodness then for films like Giuseppe Tornatore’s simply beautiful Cinema Paradiso.

I’ve come late to the party on this one. Dating back to 1988, I’ve only now finally watched this, thanks to Arrow Films recent Blu-ray, that features both the theatrical cut and the directors cut which, running nearly an hour longer, I haven’t seen yet.

Cinema Paradiso is a film about life, friendship, the passing of time, the loss of innocence, but mostly its a love story.  Set a just after the Second World War in a small, dead-end Sicilian village, a  little boy, Toto, enraptured by the silver screen dreams of his village cinema, befriends its life-weary projectionist, Alfredo. Toto’s father is missing from the war, and Alfredo has no children. The projectionist becomes a surrogate father to Toto, the two of them sharing a love for the cinema and the films projected there,  a love shared by the whole village that gathers to be swept away from their insular lives of poverty and hopelessness by the silver-screen dreams created worlds away.  The film is a poem for the life-changing joy and universal language of cinema, of cinema that means something.

The film has a perfect cast, a finely-judged screenplay, and a poignant score by the great Ennio Morricone. Anybody who loves movies cannot fail to be touched by this film; its the kind of film you can easily fall in love with, seduced by its laughter, sadness and joy as we watch Toto grow up, and witness what becomes of him and his cinema and all the villagers who flocked to the films. I won’t dwell further on the story; its twists and turns are a discovery every viewer should experience without any fore-knowledge.

I’ve no idea if the longer directors cut actually improves the film- is such a thing even possible? I intend to wait a few weeks before watching that version, I’ll let you know what I think then. For now, I’ll just prefer to recall this wonderful film as it is for awhile longer. In an age becoming increasingly Digital, this film is a potent reminder of a time when films were tangible things, things you could touch. Reels of film, dreams stored in steel cans, film which, thanks to the sorcery of a play of light, could suddenly become alive when projected onto simple screens.

I often wonder if the magic of films has been lost a little simply because they have become so mundane-  after all, films are everywhere now, we are no longer limited to that communal experience of watching a film in a darkened theatre. Now we can own all the films we like, watch them whenever we like, whatever parts of them we like. They have almost become disposable. In many ways film-lovers have never had it so good as we do now, but perhaps there is something to the argument that films have lost part of their magic by becoming so accessible. Cinema Paradiso is a reminder of a not-so distant time when films were something very rare and special, when you would perhaps watch a great film and then only have it replayable in your memory for years, something to be recalled and savoured. I myself remember those pre-VHS days of Christmas movie seasons on the BBC and ITV, looking for old favourites being shown over the Holiday Season, rare opportunities to revisit them like distant old friends arriving for another Christmas. Well, much of that simple magic has gone. Times have changed, eh?


3 thoughts on “Cinema Paradiso (1988) Theatrical Cut

  1. I’ll never understand how anyone can watch a film in 10 minute chunks (jumping to your favourite sequence is a different matter, but an entire movie in snippets here & there?!), or on their tiny phone screen on the bus, or while tweeting. Heck, I don’t understand how they can do that to television… well, maybe something bitty, like a sketch show, or ephemeral, like a chat show… but proper drama?

    For all the advantages the ease of access has brought us — and they are many — it’s also fostered a disposable culture amongst… not just the younger generation, actually, but adaptable older ones. I do think it’s devalued the experience of watching something — not for everyone, but I think you’d now find people who call themselves film fans but are happy to watch a compressed/streamed lower-than-SD copy on their phone with tinny headphones, etc. That’s no kind of fan, in my opinion.

    1. Yeah, that’s the one thing I’ve found disturbing over the years, how disposable films seem to be these days. An unwelcome side-effect of being able to buy them so easily on VHS, DVD and now Blu-ray… its like they are akin to the cheap paperbacks that we could pick up in bookstores and throw away when read. I think the industry itself is partly responsible for this too, how films are marketed each summer and then forgotten until re-released every fifth or tenth anniversary. Its only natural I guess. But the latest Tom Cruise film is only important while its the latest; Oblivion will be next years Minority Report soon enough.

      Being able to watch bits of movies on tablets and smartphones is just, well, plain wrong. It lessens the whole experience, and the movie being watched. Its all just product now, hardly art at all,

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