Written by: Melissa Kusia on July 20th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1989
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Writers: Giuseppe Tornatore, Vanna Paoli
Cast: Philippe Noiret, Salvatore Cascio, Antonella Attili
DVD Released: January 6th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 170 minutes (Director’s Cut), 123 minutes (International version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo, Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Disney / Buena Vista
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Imagine giving up everything for career aspirations, and losing contact with some of life’s most meaningful fulfillments in the process. Essentially, this is what Tornatore asks his audience with Cinema Paradiso. Though the film is not entirely depressing, it does evoke many poignant emotions in the viewer that make for a complex cinematic experience.
The film is mostly told in flashback. In the beginning, a middle aged Salvatore lies in bed (looking rather distant) with a lover when the phone rings. The woman answers the phone and tells Salvatore that a man named Alfredo has died. From this point on, the audience experiences Salvatore’s life from child to young adult. With his father away at war (later discovered dead) and only his moody mother and sister for company, young Salvatore attempts to break away from reality by going to the cinema. Alfredo, the sometimes gruff but always loveable projectionist, befriends Salvatore and becomes his mentor. Alfredo and his wife cannot have children, thus Salvatore fills that void.
As time goes on, Salvatore begins to work with Alfredo to support his family. Years pass and Salvatore grows into young adulthood. His love for cinema is still as strong; however, his heart turns to Elena, the young daughter of a wealthy business man. Naturally, the two falls in love and in his heart he knows that Elena is the love of his life. However, misunderstandings prevent them from having a future together. It is in these rough times that Alfredo tells Salvatore to leave the village and never come back. He commands him to use his love for film to his benefit and forget his former life. With a great deal of hesitation, Salvatore does just this. The message of Alfredo’s death leads him back to his home many years later, and he is allowed to relive memories and reunite with his family and friends. Revisiting the past brings Salvatore both content and heartbreak.
Cinema Paradiso is a film that accomplishes many tasks. It brings the magic of the movies into perspective, encourages smiles and tears, but it ultimately forces the viewer to look at their own life. Salvatore did in fact make it as a very successful film director; however, he also missed out on some of the most important parts of living. Even at the beginning of the film, it is clear that Salvatore is quiet unsatisfied with his flings and feels utterly alone. Not only has he not seen his family and friends for a number of years, but he also loses the love of his life in the process. It was clear that Salvatore loved his work, but ultimately ached for stable relationships that he could not obtain after leaving his village.
Cinema Paradiso is in its original aspect ratio and the transfer has been given a anamorphic enhancement. Overall the picture is sharp and the colors are rendered as flesh tones look natural. The original Italian audio track is free of noise and the English subtitles are easy to read and follow.
Outside of the films original trailer no other extras are present on this DVD. There are two cuts of the film. The original U.S. cut runs two hours and three minutes. In this cut, the audience never finds out what happened to Elena, Salvatore’s lost love. However, the director’s cut runs a near three hours and answers many of the questions that the first cut presented.
The DVD is fantastic, so I highly recommend seeing the film that way the director intended it to be. The film nearly forces the viewer to experience a number of emotions. Some of these emotions disturbed me, however, that doesn’t mean I don’t love this piece of cinema. As a matter of fact, this is one of the finest foreign films ever made. It doesn’t matter what note the film leaves the viewer on, what counts is Cinema Paradiso continues to touch movie lovers of all ages.