Classic Review – Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Title – Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Director – Giuseppe Tornatore (Deception)

Cast – Marco Leonardi, Salvatore Cascio, Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Agnese Nano

Plot – The story of young boy and teenager Toto (Cascio and Leonardi) who spends his time growing up in a small post-war Italian village in the Cinema Paradiso, with his friend and projectionist Alfredo (Noiret).  

“Life isn’t like in the movies. Life… is much harder”

Review by Eddie on 19/03/2019

You know what, shame on me as a cinema lover for not having seen 1988’s beloved Oscar winning Italian film Cinema Paradiso sooner.

A film that constantly appears on must-see film lists and sits comfortably within the IMDB’s Top 100 films of all time, Giuseppe Tornatore’s love letter to romance, growing up and most importantly cinema itself is a delightful film that 30 years on has lost none of its charm.

Bought to English audiences in a shortened format (that cut over 20 minutes of footage from its original Italian version) upon initial release by Harvey Weinstein and his then up and coming company Miramax, Paradiso is one of those rare films that benefited from outside interference, focusing its attention on the lovable friendship between young boy/teenager Toto and Philippe Noiret’s old school projectionist Alfredo and the power that cinema can have over our lives.

Unfortunately the version of Cinema Paradiso I watched was the more recently released “director’s cut” version of the film that takes the Oscar winning Weinstein cut and restores the film to its much longer near 3 hour version that Tornatore originally envisioned his film to be.

This much more self-indulgent version of the simplistic tale still harbors many delights, such as Ennio Morricone’s memorable score, brilliantly realized reincarnations of post-war Italian village life and the Cinema Paradiso itself, which is a place you’d wish you to could spend some quality time in, but overall it feels like the more streamlined version of this lovable tale is the way to go.

From understanding, the director’s cut features more long in the tooth scenes of Toto’s teenage-hood and in particular more of Toto as a middle-aged man, drawn back to his small village that causes the now famous filmmaker to take pause and reconsider lost loves and life affirming friendships.

These scenes and additions aren’t particularly bad but there nowhere near as magical and entertaining as some of the films many early scenes, while some of the answers these additional scenes offer the stories aren’t needed to enjoy the film more, if anything, providing answers we didn’t really need to know.

Despite the flaws in this directors cut, the core beauty and heartfelt nature of Tornatore’s film is still readily accessible and as a love letter to cinema, it doesn’t get much better than what the Paradiso has to offer, meaning for cinephiles, there will be barely a dry eye in the house as the credits begin to roll.

Final Say –

The type of cliché but fabulously magical tale we don’t get anymore, Cinema Paradiso has aged beautifully over these 30 years and is a must-watch for any true fans of cinema, just make sure you track down the theatrical cut version.

4 town squares out of 5

13 responses to “Classic Review – Cinema Paradiso (1988)

  1. It’s a lovely lovely movie indeed, and like for many of Morricone’s scores, it’s a major character in the movie!

    • It’s amazing isn’t it his ability to be able to make the score a real part of the whole thing, a living breathing entity.

  2. Have to disagree with you over the director’s cut, I think it adds a depth and a poignant sense of regret over the passing of such a wonderful period in Toto’s life. I think it helps too to see the director’s cut first – it is a very different movie from the theatrical cut…

    • I really wished I had watched the theatrical cut first mate, I honestly feel like the longer version gives answers to questions that didn’t really need it. Still a great film, but it to me was both a little long in the tooth and also gave some rather unsatisfactory offerings such as SPOILERS – how Toto lost his virginity, his car meeting with his old flame and in particular what Alfredo had done all those years ago when he divided the young lovers. I didn’t feel like these were a great addition to the tale.

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