• James Rutherford

'Cinema Paradiso': The Exuberant Tale of a Filmmaker's Childhood Immersed in Cinematic Escapism


Movie poster for the 1988 film Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso) (1988) is an exuberant and wonderfully charming Italian drama that follows an acclaimed filmmaker named Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) as he reflects upon his youth in the village of Giancaldo, Sicily. Informed as an adult of the passing of childhood father figure Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), Di Vita chronicles his remembrances via flashback as he details his immersion in cinema from a young age.


Eight-year-old Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio), nicknamed "Toto", is a rambunctious child in post-World War II Sicily who has lost his father in the war and subsequently immerses himself in movies shown at the local "Cinema Paradiso". It's here that Toto develops a burgeoning friendship with middle-aged projectionist Alfredo, who kindly allows Toto to watch films directly from the projection booth. Their camaraderie soon evolves into a full-blown partnership after Alfredo loses his sight, thrusting young Toto into the role of lead projectionist—a role he fulfills with enormous gusto. The storyline follows the evolving friendship between Toto and Alfredo over time, as Toto matures to young adulthood and ultimately faces the prospect of leaving Sicily to follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker.


Written and directed by Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore (The Legend of 1900, The Best Offer), Cinema Paradiso is a poignant coming-of-age narrative bearing remarkable appreciation for the magic of the moving picture. Young Cascio is the true centerpiece, his wide-eyed enthusiasm for film belaying enormous passion for the medium as a vessel for escapism. Indeed Tornatore's semi-autobiographical celebration of the silver screen reverberates with his unmitigated nostalgia for a bygone era of antiquity—carefully balancing humor, elation, pathos and pronounced melancholy. Steeped in sentiment and filmed beautifully by cinematographer Blasco Giurato, it's a genuine modern classic not to be missed by any means.

 

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