"A resoundingly romantic love letter to those of us addicted to the movies."
Few films come close to encapsulating that ‘movie addiction’ that the most ardent cinephiles are afflicted with. A handful of films have come close (Woody Allen’s "Purple Rose of Cairo" and Joe Dante’s "Matinee" are among my favorites) but none can touch the majesty of Giuseppe Tornatore’s sublimely satisfying "Cinema Paradiso". This film is to cinema what "Field of Dreams" is to baseball. And slightly less sappy too.I’d heard this movie mentioned as a ‘love letter to movie fans’ for several years before I actually sat down to watch it for myself. To say Cinema Paradiso capably lived up to its lofty reputation would be an extreme understatement. Winner of the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (and currently ranked as #104 on the IMDb’s Top 250 of All-Time!), Cinema Paradiso is, at its core, a simple romance movie. But a wondrous and adoringly personal romance it is.
Sure, the main meat of the film focuses on that most traditional of movie romances (i.e. boy and girl) but it’s also about one boy’s love for the movies. Young Salvatore is growing up in a quaint (see boring) little Sicilian village, and the boy quickly finds himself the most wonderful escape plan a little kid can have: the movies. Rascally old Alberto is the devoted projectionist and lifelong movie lover. Despite the well-meaning protestations of Salvatore’s mother, Alberto fans the flames of the kid’s cine-mania.
As Sal grows up his attentions turn to more…feminine pursuits, though he’s now known as the village’s new projectionist. (How Alberto loses his position is one of the film’s more bittersweet subplots.) The story is told through extended flashback, and we learn that Salvatore will one day become a world-renowned filmmaker. To allude to anything else would rob you of some of the film’s richest moments; suffice to say that Cinema Paradiso is laden with wonderful moments and ideas. It’s quite simply one of the most beautifully romantic films ever made. (Sure, I haven’t seen every romance movie ever made, but I’d still stand by that statement.)
Miramax releases the DVD with two separate versions: the original theatrical (Oscar-winning) print, and a very extended director’s cut which runs nearly an hour longer. I’m of the opinion that the “new” version is wholly unnecessary, in that it colors in a lot of blanks from the original. This is not nearly a good thing. Still, fans of the film (and there are a lot of you out there) should certainly enjoy the extended edition if only for curiosity value.It’s the 1988 version that you’ll come back to time and time again.