The 25th-anniversary restoration of Giuseppe Tornatore’s crowd-pleasing Oscar-winner is the original version, not the later, longer director’s cut. As a celebration of old-fashioned flammable nitrate film in all its unpredictability, it has an added resonance in today’s digital era. Cinema Paradiso is a movie of glorious moments but it is undermined by its own chronic, nostalgia-fuelled soppiness. At times, the sentimentality risks becoming very cloying indeed. Tornatore’s screenplay owes an obvious debt to Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni, likewise a story about a man looking back with longing on his provincial roots.
The first section of the film is the best and most magical. This is where we see the wonderfully gruff projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) take the little urchin Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) in hand and teach him the secrets of projecting movies.
It helps that Salvatore is so full of mischief and Alfredo is such a curmudgeon. Tornatore depicts the goings-on in the Cinema Paradiso with affection and great humour. Cinemagoers range from masturbating adolescents and censorious priests to old-timers who like to have a kip during screenings.
It’s when we leap forward to Salvatore as a young man in love for the first time that the mawkishness begins to set in. Even so, the film ends wonderfully with the famous montage of screen kisses – the footage that the priest would never allow to be shown in the original Cinema Paradiso.
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