Cinema Paradiso was internationally released as Cinema Paradiso, is a 1988 Italian drama film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. The film stars Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano and Salvatore Cascio, and was produced by Franco Cristaldi and Giovanna Romagnoli, while the music score was composed by Ennio Morricone along with his son, Andrea.
Cinema Paradiso offers a nostalgic look at films and the effect they have on a young boy who grows up in and around the title village movie theater in this Italian comedy drama that is based on the life and times of screenwriter/director Giuseppe Tornatore.
It’s Rome of 1980s, famous Italian film director Salvatore Di Vita, returns home late one evening, where his girlfriend sleepily tells him that his mother called to say that someone named Alfredo has died. Salvatore obviously shies from committed relationships, and has not been to his home village of Giancaldo, Sicily in 30 years. As she asks him who Alfredo is, Salvatore flashes back to his childhood.
It is a few years after World War II. Six-year-old Salvatore is the mischievous, intelligent son of a war widow. Nicknamed Toto, he discovers a love for films and spends every free moment at the movie house — Cinema Paradiso. There he develops a friendship with the fatherly projectionist, Alfredo, who takes a shine to the young boy, and often lets him watch movies from the projection booth. During the shows, the audience can be heard booing when there are missing sections, causing the films to suddenly jump, bypassing a critical romantic kiss or embrace. The local priest ordered these sections “censored.” The deleted scenes are piled on the projection room floor. At first, Alfredo considers Toto a bit of a pest, but eventually he teaches Salvatore to operate the film projector. The montage ends as the movie house catches fire — highly flammable nitrate film was in routine use at the time. Salvatore saves Alfredo’s life, but not before some film reels explode in Alfredo’s face, leaving him permanently blind. The Cinema Paradiso is rebuilt by a town citizen, Ciccio, who invests his football lottery winnings. Salvatore, yet a child, is hired as the new projectionist, being the only person who knows how to run the machines.
About a decade later, Salvatore, now in high school, is still operating the projector at the Cinema Paradiso. His relationship with the blind Alfredo has strengthened, and Salvatore often looks to him for help — advice that Alfredo often dispenses by quoting classic films. Salvatore has been experimenting with film, using a home movie camera, and he has met, and captured on film, Elena, daughter of a wealthy banker. Salvatore woos — and wins — Elena’s heart, only to lose her due to her father’s disapproval. As Elena and her family move away, Salvatore leaves town for compulsory military service. His attempts to write to Elena are fruitless; his letters are returned as undeliverable. Upon his return from the military, Alfredo urges Salvatore to leave Giancaldo permanently, counseling that the town is too small for Salvatore to ever find his dreams. Moreover, the old man tells him that once he leaves, he must pursue his destiny wholeheartedly, never looking back and never returning, even to visit — he must never give in to nostalgia or even write or think about them.
Salvatore has obeyed Alfredo, but he returns home to attend the funeral. Though the town has changed greatly, he now understands why Alfredo thought it was important that he leave. Moreover, he comes across a young girl resembling Elena (Elena’s daughter), follows her and finds Elena only to discover that she waited for him and left a note for him before leaving but Alfredo and circumstances never let the two of them meet. Alfredo’s widow tells him that the old man followed Salvatore’s successes with pride, and he left him something — an unlabeled film reel and the old stool that Salvatore once stood on to operate the projector. Salvatore learns that Cinema Paradiso is to be demolished to give way to a parking lot. At the funeral, he recognizes the faces of many people who attended the cinema when he was the projectionist.
Salvatore returns to Rome. He watches Alfredo’s reel and discovers that it makes up a very special montage. It contains all of the romantic scenes the priest had ordered cut from movies. Alfredo spliced the sequences together to form a single film. Salvatore has made peace with his past
One of the most emotional films of the modern era- Cinema Paradiso is in actual fact a bald-faced act of human feelings in which mortality is drained of anything with even a passing resemblance to a soul. It offers nostalgia and speaks the feel at all like it speaks of a universal experience of how we consume cinema. That is to say, the film’s messages and the resonance of the experiences of life and times….
It also won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film back in 1989, which really should tell you all you need to know.
- Written & Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
- Produced by Franco Cristaldi & Giovanna Romagnoli
- Written by Giuseppe Tornatore
- Casting: Philippe Noiret; Salvatore Cascio; Marco Leonardi and Jacques Perrin
- Music by Ennio Morricone and Andrea Morricone
- Cinematography: Blasco Giurato
- Editing by Mario Morra
- Studio: Les Films Ariane
- Distributed by Miramax Films (US) and Umbrella Entertainment
- Release dates: 17 November 1988
- Running time: 155 minutes; 124 minutes (International cut) & 174 minutes (Director’s cut)
- Country: Italy