Sunday, February 12, 2012



Director/Screenplay: Giuseppe Tornatore

One thing that's strange to me is how the majority of people regard “Cinema Paradiso,”’s original theatrical cut as the superior version of the film. The original 1988 version, was slashed by fifty minutes after it was panned by critics at it’s original screening, and the producers particularly Harvey Weinstein insisted on a shorter cut of the film (They actually ended up making two shorter cuts) Guiseppe Tornatore’s original director’s cut didn’t get released until over a decade later. Popular opinion seems to be Weinstein was actually right to make the cuts. His version was the one that won awards at Cannes, and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and remains one of the most beloved of foreign films, constantly making many Top 100 lists, and is the annual closing film for Baltimore’s Little Italy film festival. I actually disagree though. Not only does the director’s cut actually make the film complete, but I actually think the movie doesn’t really work without the fifty minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, both versions are great films; and together, and separately, they’re one of the most enjoyable of all film-viewing experiences. If Fellini’s “8 ½” is the quintessential film for filmmakers, than “Cinema Paradiso,” is the quintessential film for film viewers, or specifically for cinephiles, those who truly love movies and cinema. “The Director’s Cut,” however, gives us what we didn't have before, the rest of the story, and it makes the film that much deeper and personal. It is sentimental, the way a movie should be sentimental, and it also has many twists and turns, seamlessly flowing from slapstick comic pratfalls to disaster movie devastation to Dantesque love, to the wonderment of fairy tales and imagination. 

The story involves a filmmaker named Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) who’s currently living in Rome, but has just receive news from his mother in Sicily that his friend Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) has passed away. This sends him into a lifelong flashback where now a kid (Salvatore Cascio as a boy, and Marco Leonardi as a teenager), he remembers hanging out at the Cinema Paradiso, the local church run movie theatre, hanging in the back with Alfredo as he edits out the movies when the priest deems them pornographic, which may just be as simple as a kiss. His father died in the War, and there are references to the Post-WWII Italian Neorealism, but there’s references to every kind of film being shown back then from John Wayne to Brigitte Bardot to Antonioni to Fellini to Chaplin…. 

There’s a few loves in Toto’s life (Salvatore’s nickname, possibly a “Wizard of Oz,” reference) He eventually befriends Alfredo like a father figure, and after a terrible accident, he eventually takes over as film projector at the Nuevo Cinema Paradiso, which was built after the first one burnt down. (The entire title of the movie actually is “Nuevo Cinema Paradiso”) There’s also a wonderful romance he has with Elena (Agnese Nano) which he has as a teenager falling head over heels, and willing to put himself thru great misery to be with her. 

Afterwards, as revealed in the Director’s Cut version, they have a last meeting when he arrives for the funeral, and we all find out how certain events in his past could’ve been different if they had their chance. I find it curious that this part was edited out originally, because without it, the movie is only the relationship with Alfredo, and then this brief romance he had as a teenager, which without the third part, I’d argue that it might not have any particular relevance to the rest of the film. Essentially, the original is only two-thirds of the movie, and the first and second third aren’t particularly connected well. Hypothetically, if you were gonna cut that whole last part of the romance, then you might as well cut the romance from the beginning as well, although then, you might have only ended up with a 60-minute movie at best, so why cut it in the first place?

As I write this though, I do realize that I’m nitpicking, and that I shouldn’t be judging a hypothetical movie. I personally am noting this Director’s Cut, because even though the original cut might be more palatable, this version makes us run through all the emotions of life and growth and shows how paradise’s temptation does lead to learning sinful knowledge. Yet, it is essential for one to watch both versions and judge for oneself which is the better version, but either way, this film is a celebration of cinema, the cinema on the screen, and of our lives, idealized when desired, and edited for parts we don’t wish to recall. And that one’s love can only truly be revealed thru a kiss, just like in the movies.  

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