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The world might keep more hope and zeal,
Might waver closer to ideal,
Might capture greater curb appeal
If life were like the movies.

Our friends might longer stay our friends,
Our enemies might make amends,
Our chances rise for happy ends
If life were like the movies.

But no, they’re not, we’re often told.
Such dreams decay as we grow old.
And yet they never lose their hold;
That’s why we watch the movies.
_____________________

MPAA rating: PG (should perhaps be PG-13, though the director’s cut is R)

It’s time now for my final Blindspot of the year, the Italian classic Cinema Paradiso (or to use the Italian title, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso). I’ve been curious about this film for a while since it seems that everyone who sees it loves it to pieces, not least of all Cinema Parrot Disco, who named her blog after it. Of the three different versions that are apparently floating around, I watched the original international release of 123 minutes, as opposed to the 155-minute Italian release or the 173-minute director’s cut. Even apart from the long list of accolades that were listed prior to the film’s actual start, I undoubtedly recognize why it is hailed as such a classic, but it also left me a tad perplexed simply because I wanted to absolutely love it but instead just really, really, really liked it. That is to say, it didn’t quite bridge the tiny gap between fondness and favorite, but fondness isn’t too shabby.

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Told mostly in flashback, Cinema Paradiso is at its heart a coming-of-age tale about a young boy named Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio), who is enamored of his post-war Italian village’s local theater, the Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, and constantly pesters the big-hearted projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret). Their bond is the sweetest aspect of the whole story. Despite Alfredo’s tendency to make hyperbolic threats while waving his hands around as Italians do, his affection for young “Toto” is unmistakable, from teaching him how to operate the projector to encouraging him to seek out bigger things than their rural village.

The town at large is also full of colorful characters, from the rich man who spits on the poorer folks from the theater balcony to the crazy tramp who claims the entire town square as his own. It’s a community of mischievous lads, indignant priests, and avid movie lovers, perhaps idealized by Salvatore’s nostalgia, but still feeling dynamic and genuine. It’s also a look at an era long past. While many today scorn the old black-and-white films of yesteryear, Cinema Paradiso shows a time when they thrilled the whole neighborhood, where theaters erupted with laughter and chair-stealing mobs would form if they were denied their latest favorite. Film itself is a prominent character here, a reminder of how magical it once was, how dangerous it could be, and how beloved it still is.

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Deserving Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Cinema Paradiso is full of moments designed to make you smile and even tear up by the end, and it presents them with good humor and romantic sweetness that never loses its honesty. With such strong performances, appealing sentimentality, and sincere love of film, it’s hard to pin down why it didn’t quite affect me the way I was hoping. I can’t really point to anything specific, aside from perhaps its length or the less-than-satisfying romance aspect, but I also feel that my appreciation will only grow if I see it again. It’s easily a five-star movie and an affecting tribute to the magic of film.

Best line:  (Alfredo, to Salvatore) “Get out of here! Go back to Rome. You’re young, and the world is yours. I’m old. I don’t want to hear you talk anymore. I want to hear others talking about you…. Whatever you end up doing, love it. The way you loved the projection booth when you were a little squirt.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2017 S.G. Liput
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