Portal of dreams: ‘Cinema Paradiso’

❉ Giuseppe Tornatore’s paean to the transformative effects of cinema has lost none of its power.

“Cinema Paradiso is packed with evocative and memorable sequences that go beyond simply romanticising films. The movie house offers us a portal into understanding the importance of culture in the cohesion of small communities and the balance of power between cinema and religion.”

No movie fetishizes the click-clacking of film projection as well as Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 drama Cinema Paradiso. Tornatore’s film takes the often obscure continental preoccupation with the magically transformative effects of cinema palatable, accessible and sweet.  Picking up the baton of Truffaut’s Day for Night and Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive, and mixing in the decaying provinciality of Fellini’s  I Vitelloni and Amarcord, Cinema Paradiso is, at once, a nostalgic celebration of the tail-end of the dominance of cinema and an elegy for the small Italian rural town and village.

The movie opens in 1988. Salvatore Di Vita, a successful film director, returns to his home village of Giancaldo to attend the funeral of Alfredo. In flashback, the relationship of Alfredo  and Salvatore is revealed: the former is the projectionist in the village cinema, running films, censored by a local priest. Salvatore is a child who develops a fascination with the technology of film projection. Alfredo teaches Salvatore the trade, and the child takes over the business when Alfredo is blinded in a nitrate film fire. As Salvatore gets older he reveals a talent for filmmaking, and ultimately he leaves the village, told by Alfredo to never look back and never return. Inevitably, years later, Salvatore does return, for Alfredo’s funeral, just as the village cinema has been earmarked for demolition. After the funeral, he finds a film reel: the censored offcuts of countless films projected at the cinema, spliced together by Alfredo to create a sequence of subversive romantic scenes. Salvatore runs the film and weeps for his lost mentor and friend.

It’s a superficially uncomplicated movie, a simple coming-of-age drama with a heavy dose of poignant melodrama and wistful comedy. Whilst it lacks the cutting focus of Truffaut or the surreal fuzziness of Fellini, it presents instead the tactile pleasure of cinema and the cosiness of community with efficiency and a pleasing directness. Tornatore plays expertly with the fusion of cinema and dreams: the projected films in the village movie house into Salvatore’s memories of childhood and the censored clips representing his repressed, forgotten recollections.

Cinema Paradiso is packed with evocative and memorable sequences that go beyond simply romanticising films. The movie house offers us a portal into understanding the importance of culture in the cohesion of small communities and the balance of power between cinema and religion. It’s not subtle in the ways it elicits sentiment, and at times it risks crossing the line into saccharine, but Tornatore skilfully navigates a path between emotional manipulation and something more profound and compelling.

Released in Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray with both the theatrical cut and (Alfredo would be pleased) a 1080p version of the extended director’s cut, Cinema Paradiso is a moving, uplifting and, at times, melancholy paean for movies-past.

Special Edition Contents

4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) of the 124 minute theatrical version
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the 174 minute Director’s Cut
Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 surround sound options
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
A Dream of Sicily: A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with the director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise: A 27-minute documentary on the making of Cinema Paradiso and the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
The Kissing Sequence: Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with clips identifying each scene
Original Directors Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer


‘Cinema Paradiso’ is available from Arrow Academy on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK, US & Canada.

❉ A longstanding contributor to We Are Cult, Matt Barber runs the Film Ark blog and tweets as @mattbarberuk

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