From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Nuovo cinema Paradiso (New Paradise Cinema) is a 1988 Italian romantic drama film written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. It was internationally released as Cinema Paradiso in France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The film stars Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano and Salvatore Cascio; produced by Franco Cristaldi and Giovanna Romagnoli, and the music by Ennio Morricone along with his son, Andrea.
It was originally released in Italy at 155 minutes but poor box office performance in its native country led to it being shortened to 123 minutes for international release. It was an instant success. This international version won the Special Jury Prize at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and the 1989 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. In 2002, the director's cut 173-minute version was released (known in the U.S. as Cinema Paradiso: The New Version).
It stars Jacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano and Salvatore Cascio. It was produced by Franco Cristaldi and Giovanna Romagnoli, and the music was by Ennio Morricone along with his son Andrea Morricone.
Told in flashback, it tells the story of the return to his native Sicilian village of a successful film director Salvatore for the funeral of his old friend Alfredo, who was the projectionist at the local "Cinema Paradiso". Ultimately, Alfredo serves as a wise father figure to his young friend who only wishes the best to see him succeed, even if it means breaking his heart in the process.
The film intertwines sentimentality with comedy, and nostalgia with pragmaticism. It explores issues of youth, coming of age, and reflections (in adulthood) about the past. The imagery in each scene can be said to reflect Salvatore's idealised memories about his childhood. Cinema Paradiso is also a celebration of films; as a projectionist, young Salvatore (a.k.a Totò) develops the passion for films that shape his life path in adulthood.
In Rome during the 1980s, famous Italian film director Salvatore Di Vita, returns home late one evening, where his girlfriend sleepily tells him that his mother called to say that someone named Alfredo has died. Salvatore obviously shies away from committed relationships, and he has not been back to his home village of Giancaldo, Sicily in 30 years. As she asks him who Alfredo is, Salvatore flashes back to his childhood.
It is a few years after World War II. Six-year-old Salvatore is the mischievous, highly intelligent son of a war widow. Nicknamed Toto, he discovers a love for films and spends every free moment at the local movie house — Cinema Paradiso. There he develops a friendship with the fatherly projectionist, Alfredo, who takes a shine to the young boy and often lets him watch movies in the projection booth. During the movies, the audience can frequently be heard booing whenever there are missing sections, causing the films to suddenly jump, bypassing a critical romantic kiss or embrace. The local priest has ordered these sections to be "censored." The deleted scenes are piled on the projection room floor. At first, Alfredo considers Toto a pest, but eventually he teaches Salvatore how to operate the film projector. The montage ends as the movie house catches fire — highly inflammable Nitrate film was in routine use at the time. Salvatore saves Alfredo's life, but not before the film reels explode in Alfredo's face, leaving him permanently blind. The Cinema Paradiso is rebuilt by a town citizen, Ciccio, who invests his football lottery winnings in it. Salvatore, though still a child, is hired to be the new projectionist, as he is the only one who knows how to run the machines.
About a decade later, Salvatore, now in high school, is still the projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso. His relationship with the blind Alfredo has only strengthened, and Salvatore often looks to him for advice — advice that Alfredo often dispenses by quoting classic films. Salvatore has started experimenting with filmmaking, using a home movie camera, and he has met, and captured on film, a girl, Elena, daughter of a wealthy banker. Salvatore woos — and wins — Elena's heart, only to lose her owing to her father's disapproval. As Elena and her family move away, Salvatore leaves town to serve his compulsory military service. His attempts to write to Elena are fruitless; his letters are always returned as undeliverable. Upon his return from the military, Alfredo urges Salvatore to leave Giancaldo permanently, counseling that the town is too small for Salvatore to ever find his dreams. Moreover, the old man tells him that once he leaves, he must pursue his destiny wholeheartedly, never looking back and never returning, even to visit — he must never give in to nostalgia or even write or think about them.
Salvatore has obeyed Alfredo, but he returns home for the first time to attend the funeral. Though the town has changed greatly, he now understands why Alfredo thought it was so important that he leave. Alfredo's widow tells him that the old man followed Salvatore's successes with pride, and he has left him something — an unlabeled film reel and the old stool that Salvatore once stood on to operate the projector. Salvatore learns that Cinema Paradiso is to be demolished to give way to parking lots. As he looks at the proceedings, he recognizes many people who attended the cinema when he was a projectionist there.
Salvatore returns to Rome. He watches Alfredo's reel and discovers that it is a very special montage. It contains all the romantic scenes that the priest ordered to be cut from movies. Alfredo spliced all the sequences together to form a single film. Salvatore has made peace with his past.
- Philippe Noiret as Alfredo
- Salvatore Cascio as Salvatore Di Vita (child)
- Marco Leonardi as Salvatore Di Vita (adolescent)
- Jacques Perrin as Salvatore Di Vita (adult)
- Antonella Attili as Maria (young)
- Enzo Cannavale as Spaccafico
- Isa Danieli as Anna
- Pupella Maggio as Maria (old)
- Agnese Nano as Elena Mendola (adolescent)
- Leopoldo Trieste as Father Adelfio
- Nino Terzo as Peppino's Father
- Giovanni Giancono as The Mayor
- Brigitte Fossey (Extended cut) as Elena Mendola (adult)