Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 344 - Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso (1988) directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Salvatore is a young boy whose father has gone missing in the war and whose mother has little time for him. The one constant in his life is the Cinema Paradiso and the magic of the movies that play there. He sneaks out every night to watch every show much to his mother's disapproval. Even at a young age, Salvatore is able to understand the power that movies hold, their ability to capture hearts and imaginations and in the case of a young boy in need of attention, to love and always be there. Soon Salvatore forms a friendship with the projectionist Alfredo, whom he eventually grows to view as a father, teacher and friend. Cinema Paradiso is a heartfelt film about the power of movies, particularly in their ability to foster a lifelong bond between a fatherless kid and a childless man.

The film is told primarily through flashback. An older Salvatore learns that his mentor Alfredo has just died and he lays in bed recalling his youth with a great sense of nostalgia. These earlier scenes of Salvatore's youth are filled with a sweet childlike innocence and are the film's strongest moments. There is such joy and exuberance in these scenes, particularly in his budding relationship with Alfredo. Is is also marred with a sense of sadness because we know something has happened to separate the two before Alfredo's death. (In the present day scene it implies that Salvatore has not been back home in many many years.) Eventually Salvatore grows older and he finds love, pain, joy, and loss, basically all the things people go through while growing up. The one constant though has always been that magical theater that has shaped his life.

There is more to the story than this of course, but like many great movies plot summaries do not do the film justice. In reality, the plot is very simplistic. A boy grows up and leaves town. He comes back and remembers. But the whole beauty and joy in watching the film is in watching life unfold. We grow familiar with the sights and sounds of the theater, the people who go there, the daily rhythms of the street, a young boy we watch grow up before our eyes and of a man who loves him like a son.

Grade: A

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