Posts Tagged ‘Giuseppe Tornatore’

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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