Cinema Paradiso (Blu-ray)
In 1990, CINEMA PARADISO won the Golden Globes and Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film among other awards in the international and smaller awards circuit. Once I caught the foreign film bug, this flick ranked high on my list of movies to see as a result of those awards and the praises CINEMA PARADISO received. A foreign film that revolves around a love for cinema? Sign me up! Alas, the film was overhyped and fell short of my expectations. True, I was comparing this film to the other greats that have come after this picture was released, so when watching a second time I gave the film a clean slate and was ready for another shot.
CINEMA PARADISO, is a bookended flashback film, where a successful filmmaker looks back on his childhood and teen years upon receiving startling news. In what can best be described as a coming of age story, we meet Salvatore ‘Toto’ and see the wonderful relationship develop between Toto and his unexpected father-figure, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret). As the film projectionist in a small Sicilian town, Alfredo mans the movie reel managing to create art out of his projecting skills. The care and consideration he gives each reel when putting them together transforms into the joy and frustrations he deals with as Toto’s friend and mentor. In the town’s beloved theater, Toto grows up, experiencing love, loss and the fantastic world of cinema.
One of my favorite parts in the film is when the town priest wants to save the viewers from anything indecent, like kissing, and requests that he might pre-screen each film. The priest signals to Alfredo by ringing a bell to cut that scene out of the picture. The cut scenes make their way back to the picture for the final dramatic ending that is beautifully done.
I always find casting decisions to be interesting when selecting the actors to portray the assorted ages for the same character. Salvatore Cascio as youthful and vibrant Toto is perfect. The energy and mischievousness he brings forth draw you in as a viewer allowing you to enjoy the growing bond between Toto and Alfredo. The casting decision to bring in Marco Leonardi for teen Toto might not have been the best, especially for the time period of the most growth and life lessons. Everything about Leonardi felt wrong and forced. From the caked on make-up to make him look as bronze as younger Toto to the overacting the film went downhill for me the minute Leonardi was introduced. Perhaps my view of this movie would be different had the filmmakers selected an alternate candidate for teen-Toto. But, the film ends on a high note with adult Toto! Jacques Perrin looks nothing like the first two Toto’s but at least the man can act. The final scene in this film has me in tears as he watches the spliced film reel from the pure the emotion he produces from the images he sees on screen. Thankfully, there is a constant in this film with Alfredo. The chemistry he has with the Toto actors seems genuine and organic.
Upon my second viewing, my feelings are roughly the same. CINEMA PARADISO is a film for people who love movies and understand the relationship between a viewer and the film. It has spirit and heart but somehow manages to fall short of being great.
Video (1.64:1): The transfer to Blu-ray is not the best one I have seen. Images seem very soft and grainy.
Audio (Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono): The audio was fine, nothing to write home about.