directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
starring Salvatore Cascio, Philippe Noiret, Antonella Attili
If there was ever an art film, this is it. Shot in Sicily with glowing sunrises and quaint villages, Cinema Paradisio chronicles a young man’s obsession with film. Young Toto (Cascio) lost his dad in the Great War but doesn’t understand yet. His mother (Attili) struggles on, and while Toto is a bright boy he’s obsessed with the local movie house. Here Alfredo (Noiret) edits out kissing scenes at the instruction of the parish priest (Leopoldo Trieste) and then shows the films to a small, enthusiastic crowd. Toto steals the naughty out takes until one day his stash of the nitrate film spontaneously ignites. Later the entire movie house burns down from the same problem, leaving Alfredo blind. As Toto matures, he never loses touch with his mentor, and we see this story in his own flashback. There’s the bracket; this story only exists in the mind of the middle aged Toto (Jacques Perrin) who is now a famous movie producer in his own right. Cinema Paradiso documents a man’s life time love of cinema, and sitting through it can feels like another life time as well.
Cinema Paridiso is a lovely way to spend a few hours but damn, it’s a long one. Included in this package is a director’s cut; clocking in just shy of three hours its perhaps more art cinema than one can swallow in a sitting. Director Tornatore cut out a single 23 minute take to make this project a commercial and artistic success. But all really great stories take a while to tell; Lawrence of Arabia and Apocalypse Now are equally as long and equally as well shot. The restoration here is beautiful, on my 1080p monitor it looked better than it would have in a pre-digital conventional movie screen. The story engrosses, young Toto is adorable and his village dreamlike so long as you are a tourist, and not a starving local. If you’re a true film buff I highly recommend the commentary track with Millicent Marcus and Tornatore. She follows the action frame by frame, discussing camera angles, filters, and all that technical mumbo jumbo that when done right elevates a film to a higher plane. There is a commitment to watching this project, and its one you ought to consider if you want make or argue about film with the big boys. Here you have a whole film festival in one disk.