Cinema Paradiso (1989)


Cinema Paradiso is a film that I’ve heard and read about for years. It often lands on Best Of lists and can be found in many film books. For whatever reason I never checked it out. I never really knew what the movie was about and the poster art left me cold. Something about the passionate kiss on the original poster made me thing the film was romantic drama and readers of this site can understand why I would pass on a film like that: it isn’t really my bag. I was sent Cinema Paradiso for review and I figured now was the time to finally sit down and see what all the buzz was about.

Cinema Paradiso is an Italian flick that begins in the late 40’s. The war has ended and life is hard for the people of the village in Sicily. Most folks don’t own a car and in those days before television the only entertainment in town is the Cinema Paradiso, a movie theater. Toto, the son of a soldier, is obsessed with cinema. Every chance he gets he sneaks into the theater to watch movies and watch Alfredo, the projectionist. This obsession grows into a beautiful relationship with Alfredo who teaches him about projection and about life. We see Toto grow from a young child into adulthood and always through the Cinema Paradiso.

Cinema Paradiso is about community, film, and growing up. It’s a slice of life at certain time in history, in a unique place. These are integral to the plot. The film feels very personal and indeed the director has said that elements of the film are very autobiographical. The film won the oscar for best foreign language film in 1989 and a boat load of other awards so i don’t think there’s really much i can add. It’s considered a film classic and the best film about the joy of the movie theater experience. For me, the film was touching, though for my American sensibilities there were elements that were frustrating for me. I kept expecting a storybook ending but this is a realistic Italian flick, not a schmaltzy American film. But dammit i wanted my unrealistic fairy tale moments. That said it is a very good film, I just wish that it had more magic, more joy, instead of the realism. But i suppose that’s also the appeal for the film, it doesn’t take the easy way out, the way that would be satisfying but cheap. I can certainly respect and admire the film for that, even if i wanted more cheese.

The film looks fantastic. Again, Arrow has lovingly restored the film, this time it’s a ground up restoration, unique to this release. I doubt the film has ever looked better. Included are the Theatrical cut (the version i watched) and the extended Director’s Cut as well as lengthy interviews with the director about the film and a commentary track. Again, Arrow has stacked the release not only with a great restoration but with worthwhile and interesting extra features.

If you’re a fan of the film, look no further than this release. This is the definitive release out there. If you haven’t seen it, this is a great set to pick up. If you love film, and if you’re on this site you do, it’s a nice film about the love of cinema. Arrow has put out a great product for a beloved film. As always.