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Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso(1989)

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teaser Cinema Paradiso (1989)

A famous Rome film director, Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), learns of the death of an elderly film projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), and flashes back to his formative years growing up in a small postwar Sicilian village under Alfredo's tutelage.

In the village of Giancaldo, Salvatore's childhood revolved around the local cinema, the Cinema Paradiso, and the elderly projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) who schooled the young Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) on the magic of cinema and functioned as a father figure to the impressionable boy whose mother (Antonella Attili) pines for the husband she lost in World War II.

At the Cinema Paradiso, Alfredo and Salvatore (a.k.a. Toto) bond over their love of cinema, one which is severely altered by the local priest Father Adelfio (Leopoldo Trieste) who censors any show of passion on the screen by ringing a little bell. Over the years, Alfredo saves the precious bits of celluloid containing those excised screen kisses.

Despite the priest's censorial intervention, the Paradiso is the town's favorite meeting ground, a place where the populace can escape postwar misery, and a kind of church for Giancaldo's citizenry. At the Cinema Paradiso, the townsfolk go for romance, to cry, to nurse their babies, smoke and laugh in director Giuseppe Tornatore's paean to moviegoing's fading, communal nature.

As Salvatore grows into a teenager (Marco Leonardi), other pursuits beyond John Wayne movies begin to catch his eye, including Elena (Agnese Nano), the beautiful daughter of the town's banker. When the Cinema Paradiso burns down and Alfredo is blinded, Salvatore eventually becomes the projectionist at the town's new theater, welcoming in a new era of cinema in the erotic figure of Brigitte Bardot. But military service separates Elena and Salvatore, who is eventually prodded by Alfredo to leave his small town behind for the promise and potential of Rome.

A film about "what one might call (in a soggy moment) the magic of movies" (in the words of New York Times film critic Vincent Canby), Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1989) has been called a love letter to the movies greeted with reverent enthusiasm by some critics, and seen as saccharine and convention laden by others. In the course of the film, the Cinema Paradiso screens an impressive array of world cinema and Tornatore's film features clips from such renowned classics as Fritz Lang's Fury (1936), Jean Renoir's The Lower Depths (1936), Luchino Visconti's La Terra Trema (1948) and John Ford's Stagecoach (1939).

Despite some critical disagreement about the film's charms, the Italian-French co-production of Cinema Paradiso received an Oscar in 1990 for Best Foreign Language Film and the Grand Jury Prize at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

To find an actor to play the young Salvatore, Tornatore photographed some 300 Sicilian boys for the part. The film was shot in Tornatore's hometown of Bagheria, Sicily and was drawn from the director's own life and times. The film was intended as a kind of obituary of traditional movie theaters like the Paradiso, and of traditional moviegoing, though the film's international success proved communal cinema-love was not dead. Before becoming a film director, Tornatore was a still photographer, then a television documentary maker who made his film debut with The Professor (1985).

In 2002 a director's cut of the film appeared, which restored 51 minutes to the film, raising Cinema Paradiso's running time to almost 3 hours. Much of the director's cut included a grown-up continuation of the teenage romance between Salvatore and Elena. For the most part, critics saw it as an inferior version.

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Producer: Franco Cristaldi, Giovanna Romagnoli
Screenplay: Giuseppe Tornatore and Vanna Paoli
Cinematography: Blasco Giurato
Production Design: Andrea Crisanti
Music: Andrea and Ennio Morricone
Cast: Philippe Noiret (Alfredo), Jacques Perrin (adult Salvatore), Antonella Attili (Young Maria), Enzo Cannavale (Spaccafico), Isa Danieli (Anna), Leo Gullotta (Usher), Marco Leonardi (adolescent Salvatore), Pupella Maggio (Old Maria), Agnese Nano (adolescent Elena), Leopoldo Trieste (Father Adelfio), Salvatore Cascio (Child Salvatore).
C-123m. Letterboxed.

by Felicia Feaster

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