Monday, May 9, 2011

Cinema Paradiso - Movie review

'Cinema Paradiso' is an Italian film set in the Sicilian town of Bagheria and ranks 27 amongst a list of 100 movies to watch in world cinema. It is the story that begins with Salvatore, is a famous film director, getting news from his current girlfriend that he got a call from his mother whom he had not met for 30 years. Alfredo is dead. Salvatore is disturbed by the news and for the first time since he left his town, returns for Alfredo's funeral. The story is mostly told in flashback as Salvatore remembers his childhood in the town.

Young Salvatore, called Toto by all those who know him, is a bright schoolboy who is crazy after movies. He watched as many movies as he can at the town's only movie theatre Cinema Paradiso. Being a small town all movies are censored by the local priest whom Salvatore assists at the church. Toto's mother is alone, her husband has died at war with her two children - Toto and his younger sister. But it is Alfredo, the movie theatre's projectionist that Toto is drawn to for more reasons than one. They share a fine bond and Alfredo teaches Toto all he knows about projection and movies, gives him advise and generally loves him like his son. When Alfredo loses his eye sight in a terrible accident that burns down the theatre Toto is given the job by the theatre's new owner Ciccio, who has just won a lottery. Toto and Alfredo sit at the projection room and chat and talk about many things including love. Toto falls in love with Elena and they get along great until her father relocates the family. As he goes to war to serve his time and pines on endlessly for his lost love, Toto is advised by Alfredo to leave the town and go somewhere and never return. He says the town is too small. I loved what Alfredo tells Toto as he boards the train - whatever you do, love it like you loved the work at the projection room. In Alfredo, Toto loses his father figure, and returns for the funeral.

At the funeral he meets many of the raucous regulars from the movies, now old and withered. The cinema is shut down and is demolished into a parking lot before their very eyes. Toto visits the theatre, meets his old boss the theatre owner, known people, watches snips of video he had made of Elena, old photos. At the funeral Alfredo's wife says that Alfredo always followed Toto's success and asked after him till the last day. But he never called him back to meet him. Alfredo has left him a parting gift - a spliced reel of all the censored kisses and embraces in all the movies they showed at Cinema Paradise.

Cinema Paradiso is sensational in the way it is shot. Every scene looks perfect, crisp and rich. The way Alfredo and Toto share their love for movies is beautifully told. Alfredo's wisdom, always from famous lines in movies, until the one advise he gives Toto before he leaves, which is his own, is brilliant. There are so many such little ideas that enrich this fantastic movie. Like the part when Salvatore tries to woo Elena by standing at the door opposite her window similar to a story Alfredo had told him. But what is truly magical is the spliced reel that Salvatore watches of all the kisses and hugs from the movies - it leaves such a poignant emotion on you as you see one deep and intense moment melt into another, yearning looks, eyes full of love, of yielding of power - that was sheer genius and you just let that feeling wash over you, feeling almost as Salvatore does in that small theatre. Cinema Paradiso is told at an unhurried pace and shows some stunning visuals. I loved every moment of it. Watch it - it's not 27 in that list for nothing!


Rajendra said...

It had a similar effect on me. A very well made film.

Harimohan said...

The visuals are still with me and I would dearly love to see it on the big screen - that's what great cinema is all about I guess.