By Casey Campbell
I adore Cinema Paradiso. It’s a movie I’ve seen just once before, but it’s so infectious that it sticks with you. My copy is from Arrow Academy, and features both the theatrical and extended directors cut. Since I haven’t seen the movie in a while, I opted for the theatrical cut. That way, I can go back soon and better understand the differences between the two versions.
Revisiting this movie was like meeting up with an old friend after many years . There’re many superlatives I can hurl at the movie. It’s warm, pleasant, sweet, human, and a sweeping love letter to film. It’s funny, tragic, and accessible for just about everyone at any point in their life. And now that I have seen it again, I can’t wait to watch the extended cut.
Opening with a call in the night from his mother, famed director Salvatore Di Vita learns that his childhood mentor and friend Alfredo has passed away and that he must return home to Sicily after thirty years away. Then, most of the film is told in flashback, showing young Salvatore watching movies at the small theater in his small town, working at the theater, falling in love, and trying to find himself along the way.
Cinema Paradiso is a movie with many small moments that swell with nostalgia for a time I’ve never experienced. Rather than showing the theater from the audiences perspective, it regularly turns the camera around and lets you see how the audience reacts. People cry, laugh, and even yell up at Alfredo and Salvatore in the projectionist booth when something goes wrong. It’s the small moments of audience reflection that are purely magical, ironically because it feels so real. Movies are truly magic, after all. The music by Ennio Morricone (rest in peace you genius) matches the clearly personal story of a young boy finding both a father figure and a passion for cinema.
As it stands, the theatrical cut is two hours long and glides right through the story at a brisk pace. Again, I haven’t seen the directors cut which adds fifty extra minutes to the runtime, but I have a feeling the additions help the pace. It’s the kind of movie that gives a lot, but you still want more. And thankfully, there’s a lot more. If there’s even a bit of a complaint I have for the movie, it’s that the theatrical cut isn’t paced as well as it could be. Rarely do I ask for extended cuts of already long movies, but Paradiso really deserved it (also, it was initially released to theaters clocking in at two-and-a-half hours, but audiences weren’t receptive to the length so it was cut down).
The Arrow Academy blu-ray offers several documentaries about writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore, the film, and the behind the scenes. The film itself was restored from original camera negatives and looks incredible.
I’m a sucker for movies about movies, as odd as that sounds. Movies that show how beautiful and moving films can be, both as entertainment and art, while also being well made and thoughtful. Apparently the two hour theatrical cut is also available on HBO, so watch this movie immediately. It’s a stunning triumph.