Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
David recently turned me on to this wonderful Italian film that was made back in '88. If you are looking for a film with some substance and real acting this would be the one to watch.
During the 1980s in Rome, Italy, famous Italian film director Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) returns home late one evening, where his girlfriend sleepily tells him that his mother called to tell him that someone named Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) has died. It is made clear that Salvatore tends to shy away from committed relationships and that he has not been back to his home village of Giancaldo, Sicily in 30 years. As she asks him who Alfredo is, Salvatore flashes back to his childhood.
The bulk of the film takes place in this flashback, which takes place shortly after World War II in the late 1940s. We meet Salvatore, the mischievous, highly intelligent son of a war widow. Six-year-old Salvatore, whose nickname is Toto, discovers his love for films early and spends every free moment at the local movie-house — Cinema Paradiso, where he develops a friendship with the fatherly projectionist, Alfredo, who takes a shine to the young boy and often lets him watch movies in the projection booth. In the several scenes of the movies being shown, there is frequent booing from the audience, during the "censored" sections. The films suddenly jump, missing a critical kiss or embrace. The local priest has ordered that these sections be cut out. They lie on Alfredo's floor. At first, Alfredo had seen Toto as a pest, but eventually he teaches Salvatore how to operate the film projector. The montage ends as the moviehouse catches fire — film in those days was made of highly flammable nitrocellulose. Salvatore saves Alfredo's life, but not before the film reels explode in Alfredo's face, leaving him permanently blind.
The Cinema Paradiso is rebuilt by a citizen of the town, Ciccio, who invests his football lottery winnings in it. Salvatore, though still a child, is hired to be the new projectionist, as he is the only one in town who can run the machines.
The film abruptly jumps forward a decade or so. Salvatore, now in high school, is still the projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso. His relationship with the blind Alfredo has only strengthened, and Salvatore often looks to him for advice — advice that Alfredo often dispenses by quoting classic films. We also see that Salvatore has started experimenting with filmmaking using a home movie camera, and has met, and captured on film, a new girl, Elena, daughter of a wealthy banker. We watch Salvatore woo — and win — Elena's heart, only to lose her due to her father's disapproval. As Elena and her family move away, Salvatore leaves town to serve his compulsory military service. His attempts to write her and keep in touch are fruitless; his letters are always returned as undeliverable. Upon his return from the military, Alfredo urges Salvatore to move away permanently, counseling him that the town is too small to enable Salvatore to ever find his dreams. Moreover, the old man tells him that once he leaves, he must pursue his destiny wholeheartedly and never look back and never return — never returning to visit, never to give in to nostalgia, never to even write or think about them.
Back in the present, we understand that Salvatore has obeyed Alfredo but is now returning home for the first time since he left to attend the funeral. Though his hometown has changed greatly, he now understands why Alfredo thought it was so important that he leave. Alfredo's widow tells him that the old man followed Salvatore's successes with pride and has left him something — an unlabeled reel of film and the old stool that Salvatore once stood on to be able to operate the projector. Salvatore comes to know during his short stay, that Cinema Paradiso is being demolished to give way to city parking lots. As he looks at the proceedings, he recognizes many of the people who he had seen in the younger days as a projectionist at the Cinema.
Salvatore returns to Rome. At this point in the 123-minute release, he watches Alfredo's reel and discovers that it is a very special montage. It is of all the kiss scenes that the priest ordered to be cut out of the reels. Alfredo has spliced all the sequences together to form a single film. It finally seems that Salvatore has made peace with his past.
The director's cut is about an hour longer and includes scenes where Salvatore reunites with his old flame who tells him that she indeed left a note with Alfredo explaining that she was moving to Tuscany and wanted to find a way to see him. Alfredo never told him this nor did he tell him that she did in fact show up at the theater that night, but Salvatore was already gone.
This movie is very well acted and the cinematography is pretty amazing. It's sort of a rare film to find since it is no longer in print. I managed to get my hands on it at a specialty movie shop in Bloomfield called "The Dreaming Ant." If you are looking for any hard to find film or foreign film that will have it!
Posted by Michael Bell at 9:36 PM