Cinema Paradiso is one movie that you will love in the first few minutes onwards. You will constantly wonder about the central theme of the movie. The act of finding a central theme will turn out to be a taxing exercise on the viewer because there is a whole lot of underlying themes in it. There is nostalgia, love, passion, progress, regret, yearning, and the list will go on. Cinema Paradiso is the name of the cinema hall in a quiet little beach city in Italy called Giancaldo. As cinema hall undergoes a transformation, so does the life of Salvatore de Vita aka Toto changes for the better or worse depending on the phase of the movie.
First and foremost, this movie is for cinema lovers. There is a lot of footage from the old movies. Frankly, I haven't seen those movies although the faces on the footage are familiar. In a way, Cinema Paradiso shows the effect of movies on us. That is why the crowd refuses the leave the theater demanding an additional screening of a favorite movie. The movie also sadly reminds us the obsolescence of single screens in the modern age. Single screens are the big cinema halls where only one movie is screened, unlike the modern movie theater where you get to pick and choose from a plethora of movies.
The movie also shows the life of a projectionist. If you examine closer, the life of a projectionist is a monotonous one when compared to most of the other jobs. But is it possible to run a movie hall without a projectionist? In the age of single screens, the projectionist was the most important person who never gets his due. A projectionist's job is also a dangerous one because the film in the olden days was inflammable. If you are not careful, the hall will soon be under fire. Remember the climax of Inglorious Basterds. Such a mishap happens to Alfredo, the projectionist and the mentor for Toto. The accident brings both Alfredo and Toto closer, thereby giving the latter a much-needed father figure.
The movie is about Toto, a young boy growing up in a small town in the post-World War II Italy. His mother, a young war widow, struggles to bring up two kids. Toto becomes an earning member of the family because of his love for cinema. The movie shows three phases of his life. The final stage is an older Toto coming to terms with his decisions in life. There is also an important piece on censorship in the movie.
There will be no doubt in your mind about how much Giuseppe Tornatore, the director, love movies. His directorial style is distinctively Italian. There are a lot of close up shots where the actors cover the entire frame giving them enough space to display their histrionic abilities. He captures the square and the seaside of Gaincaldo very effectively for the post-World War II era. But he fails to showcase the modern times very well. Thankfully, this quality of the overall picture overshadows these small failures.
Two of the principal roles, Alfredo, and Toto(older) are played by Philippe Noiret and Jacques Perrin. Interestingly, these are French actors. The French and the Italians have different ways of acting. Philippe Noiret has the most difficult job as he has to emulate Italian mannerisms. There is another interesting trivia about the movie. Philippe Noiret said his lines in French and later the lines were dubbed in Italian by another person. If this trivia is true, then Philippe Noiret has put in a performance worthy of mention. Jacques Perrin has an easier job because he plays a successful middle-aged man who doesn't talk much. In the scene where he watches the montage created by Alfredo, Jacques Perrin shows how good an actor he is. He sits back, locks his hand behind his head and tears run out of his eyes. With this simple and natural gesture, he shows Toto has reconciled with his past.
This movie is for cinema lovers.