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October 29, 2018

Movie Review: Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Salvatore Di Vita, or "Toto" lives with his mother in his small Sicilian fishing village. His father mysteriously absent, Toto looks to the kindly, grandfather-like figure of Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) for a male role model. The town’s film projectionist for the town’s sole movie theater, the titular Cinema Paradiso, Alfredo instills a love of movies in the young boy. The theater plays a vitally important role in the local community. Cutting across political and religious beliefs, the townspeople treat the theater as an important gathering place where they can all get down to the very serious business of watching movies. The small but humble theater has its vocal detractors: As some of the less tolerant villagers point out, motion pictures forms a gateway desire to life beyond their regional way of life, but this attitude fails to turn them against purchasing tickets. There is a price to pay for all this artifice, as a fire tears through the theater and leaves Alfredo blind. Toto remains at Alfredo’s side as an avid helpmate, until he is counseled by Alfredo as a young man on the way to college to pursue his dreams away from the village. Later in life as a successful filmmaker, Toto returns to the cinema, now in ruins, to unearth a hidden reel of film that is almost too heart-breakingly poignant to watch ...

Perhaps the world’s most heartfelt valentine to film watching, undisputed masterwork of world cinema Cinema Paradiso arrives on Arrow Video with a plethora of extras. It is here that this reviewer will play the Devil’s advocate. Included in this special release is the Cinema Paradiso’s more well-known 124-minute international release as was presented at Cannes, and director Tornatore’s 174-minute cut. In your reviewer’s humble opinion, the longer cut offers little more than the protagonist’s budding romance with a local girl that adds relatively little to the story. The theme of the film is how art can transcend the most mundane of surroundings and inspire others. The protagonist’s love life as an adult, as revealed early on, is of little importance. “I would call you, and a different woman would answer the telephone each time, and by their tone of voice, I could tell that none of them loved you,” his mother witheringly breaks to him upon his 30-year return to the village.

Among the many audio extras is an audio commentary with director Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus, wherein Tornatore explains how his own small
town upbringing inspired the film. Also included is the essential “A Dream of Sicily,” which features the director’s early home moves. The 52-minute documentary also includes interviews with director Francesco Rosi and artist Peppino Ducato, accompanied by an original musical score by the iconic Ennio Morricone.

The 27-minute documentary “A Bear and Mouse in Paradise,” features interviews with actors Phillippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio, is included. Trying to keep this review spoiler-free, in regards to the hidden reel that the adult Toto discovers before the theater’s demolition, “The Kissing Sequence” dutifully lists all the film’s used in the concluding montage. Many will be surprised and pleased that the majority of clips are from classical American films.

There is also the film’s original theatrical trailer, as well as the trailer used for the recent Anniversary release; the sparkling print on display is from the original camera negative; audio consists of both the uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options and there are optional English subtitles.

There is no better time to wither view or revisit this masterpiece of international cinema, and is required viewing for everyone who has ever glimpsed a world of blossoming possibilities upon the silver screen.

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