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Cinema Paradiso Movie Review

film toto alfredo projectionist

Cinema Paradiso, Italy's winner in the 1989 Oscar competition, is half of a great movie. Its simple premise is that motion pictures have a profound effect on all our lives. For the first hour, this theme is charmingly illustrated by the evolving friendship between Alfredo, the movie projectionist in a small village, and Toto, a little boy who adores him. Toto also adores flammable nitrate film, the projection booth, and everything in sight in the “Cinema Paradiso.” Seen through Toto's eyes, a movie theatre is an enchanted palace and we do not wonder why he idolizes Alfredo, despite the older man's insistence that only an imbecile would be a projectionist. (The film gets much of its strength from Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio's beautiful performances as Alfredo and Toto.) The second hour looks and feels like a different movie: Toto saves Alfredo's life when the theatre is destroyed by fire and later takes over his job as projectionist. Every male fantasy appears to be carved in stone in the second half: the elusive girl who is seduced by relentless pursuit and then lost by circumstances, the young man who is forbidden to look fondly on his humble beginnings lest he be sidetracked from success by nostalgia, even the peculiar conviction that shunning loved ones is a necessary part of adult life. Just when it looks as if writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore has forgotten why he made the film, he floods the screen with fragments from Toto's magical childhood at the “Cinema Paradiso,” all the love scenes that were censored by the village priest. It's pure mush, but it's irresistible mush. Most audiences will leave remembering the winning truths of Part One and forgetting the laborious falseness of Part Two. The last sequence succeeds in making Cinema Paradiso seem to be a much better film than it really is. AKA: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso.

1988 123m/C IT Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, Agnes Nano, Leopoldo Trieste; D: Giuseppe Tornatore; W: Giuseppe Tornatore; C: Basco Giurato; M: Ennio Morricone. Academy Awards ‘89: Best Foreign Film; British Academy Awards ‘90: Best Actor (Noiret), Best Foreign Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Cascio); Cannes Film Festival ‘89: Grand Jury Prize; Golden Globe Awards ‘90: Best Foreign Film. VHS, LV, 8mm

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