Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Cinema Paradiso is a film lover’s favorite. Filmed in Sicily in the late 1980s, Giuseppe Tornatore captures the early life of a currently renowned Italian film director.

In the opening scene, the camera pans into a darkened, posh, high rise apartment. Salvatore di Vita has just returned from a long day of filming. As he enters into his bedroom, his girlfriend tells him that his mother recently called. Vita finds out that someone named Alfredo has just passed away. This conjures up intense memories that are centered in childhood. It also invokes thoughts that are centered in possessing a sense of place.

Audiences learn that Vita has not returned to his hometown in Sicily for thirty years. However, the coastal village of Giancaldo, Sicily embodies the true “sense of place” for him. Memories of innocence and wonderment are preserved in Giancaldo. Vita feels compelled to return and pay his respects to Alfredo.

Throughout the film, Tornatore utilizes flashbacks to tell a story about the early beginnings of a gifted artist. Toto (Vita’s nickname), a witty six-year old, is living in a poverty-stricken, war-torn village during the recent years after the Second World War. This young boy finds solace at the village cinema. Here he can forget about his troubles and pretend he’s an Indian while watching a Hollywood Western or laugh all the way through a Charlie Chaplin film. Since Toto spends so much of his time at the cinema, Alfredo, the projectionist, decides to hire him as his helper. While helping to change film reels and editing films to cut out the “inappropriate parts”, Toto earnestly feeds his passion for films and learns the practices and techniques of film-making.

As the years pass by, Toto continues to work at the cinema. One day a young Northern Italian woman catches his eye. Toto is enamored with Elena. They begin a passionate relationship but unfortunately Elena’s family has to move again. Toto tries to write to Elena but all of his letters go unanswered. Toto leaves for military duty and returns to find Alfredo advising him to leave Giancoldo and never to return. Alfredo has always served as Toto’s surrogate father. Always listening to Alfredo’s advice, Toto leaves with the intention never to return. (Alfredo advises him to do this because he knows that his dream of becoming a film maker will never come true if he stays in Sicily).

Vita returns to attend Alfredo’s funeral. His mother hands him a box that Alfredo kept and intended to give him after he passed away. What he finds inside are clippings from thousands of films. Knowing how much Toto wanted to see the entire film without edits, Alfredo assembled a large film reel of the on-screen kiss scenes that were cut out. This is a very emotional scene because we see Vita’s childhood wonderment come alive again. As he watches each scene, his eyes become wide and his face lights as if he was six years old again. He is reminded of the joys of film making.

The musical score to this film is very moving. Ennio Morricone, who also did The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; The Mission; and Lolita superbly weaves wistful music with a coming-of-age storyline. The ending scene is so powerful that I cry every time.

I will leave you with a clip of the musical theme from the film.


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Werner Herzog’s epic 1972 film, chronicles a historical time period in the Peruvian Andes Mountains. Sixteenth century Spanish conquistadors slowly make their way down the treacherous narrow mountain paths to find El Dorado – the City of Gold (the aerial filming is amazing). Although they claim and hold on to the belief that they are only there to “Christianize” the “savages,” it becomes apparent through the ruthless and crazed leadership of Aguirre, that they are out to get as much land and slaves as they can.

Journal reflections that were kept by a Spanish monk, who was on the voyage, are read throughout the film to narrate the events of the expedition and the descent of one man’s psyche. Aguirre kills off the leader of the conquest and appoints another solider as King. No longer is the group heeding to the commands of the Spanish crown; instead they are in search of El Dorado for themselves. As Aguirre’s faculties diminish and his men starve to death, natives kill each member of the expedition by bow and arrow. What happens to Aguirre is worth watching to the end.

Audience members are taken on a journey through lush jungles that are filled with defending natives and quiet, still, Amazonian River waters. Filming in a gripping documentary style Herzog encouraged the actors to improvise and react to their situations. Klaus Kinski who plays Aguirre is very convincing, probably because he was a little off his rocker in actuality. It has been said that during filming, Kinski would shoot bullets into actor’s tents and have continual temper tantrums. Kinski at one point threatened to leave the film but Herzog became so upset with this that he threatened to kill Kinski and then himself.

Aguirre: The Wrath of God is a cult classic. Herzog’s definitive dream-like imagery is utilized beautifully throughout the film. Francis Ford Coppola was very much inspired by Herzog’s work when he created Apocalypse Now. When viewing both films one will recognize right away similar filming and story-line comparisons. Furthermore, one will find a comparison between two brilliant actors (Brando and Kinski) who happened to be very demanding.

Another cult classic that is German produced and stars another Kinski is the film Paris, Texas. Klaus Kinski’s daughter Nastassja Kinski stars in this powerfully haunting film. Expansive scenes of desolate deserts coupled with a poignant musical score by Ry Cooder makes for an excellent movie event!

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