Cinema Paradiso (1988) (PG)

The story within "Cinema Paradiso" is all about movies. It takes place in a movie theater, the main character makes movies, and we see clips of old movies—silent and speaking, all throughout the film.
Young Salvatore or "Toto" (I don't believe there is any relation to "The Wizard of Oz" here) loves the movies more than anything else. But instead of just loving the way they look on screen, he adores the process of how they run through a projector, shine through a beam of light, and become large images on a wall for large gatherings of people to admire and laugh at.
Toto is an altar boy and the first experiences he has with movies are with a priest who censors the movie by previewing it and ringing a bell. Every time two characters start to kiss he rings he bell and then Alfredo, the projectionist, has to make a note of where the scene was and later cut it out before showing it to the mass public. Theoretically, the scenes in question will be spliced back in to the film before the reel is returned.
Toto is fascinated by the theater, his imagination runs wild and he starts to see the statues come alive on the walls. His one desire is to one day assume the job that Alfredo is holding, so he is constantly finding ways to sneak into the projection booth and bother Alfredo—possibly hoping that the man will be nagged into compliance.
He strikes up a deal with Alfredo and soon is helping out in the booth...of course, there's more to "Cinema Paradiso" than just a boy in a projection booth; but it's from here that the story grows.
"Cinema Paradiso" seems like a love letter to movies in general. We see how movies can inspire, make you laugh, make you cry, entertain, and even bore viewers.
The characters that hang around the theater become regulars: there's the crazy man who lives in the plaza and claims that the town square is his. There's a man and a woman who bond over not being scared by a horror movie and end up falling in love. There's also a man who thinks himself superior in every way and ends up getting what he deserves.
While these characters are interesting and fun, they don't really accomplish anything on screen besides passing time. Toto is likable enough as a kid, so is his mentor, Alfredo. But once the film allows for aging, things start to change.
Much like "Slumdog Millionaire", this movie has the main character played by three different actors—each one progressively older. But the stronger actor of the three is the youngest, Salvatore Cascio. It's hard to overcome the fact that your first impression was the best...then we go downhill. Toto as a teen is played by Marco Leonardi who does a fair job in encapsulating the awkward obsession that overtakes one in the adolescent years.
The oldest version of the three is played by Jacques Perrin, whose physical appearance alone is enough to make one confused. He looks nothing like his two younger counterparts.
"Cinema Paradiso" is filled with cliches—a father who left the family; a kind, old, wise character (much like Yoda, but not green); a mother who is emotion and perhaps abusive; a love between two young people; and so much more. I felt that, though these moments are tried and true, they lacked a little something in this movie.
But for all its faults, "Cinema Paradiso" tries its best to make the viewer cry. Ennio Morricone's score pulls the heartstrings instead of the's all very loud and warming.
In the end, you realize that there were scene after scene that were completely unnecessary to the film and its end point is fuzzy and in need of clarification. One possible interpretation would be that real life is nothing like the movies—true enough, but we didn't need a movie about this to prove it to us. But what I feel the movie is about is similar to the ending of "Citizen Kane"—for the longing of youth's innocence.
This film is cute and cuddly and not that deep. It's a movie that would appease many, if not too heavily scrutinized.

Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Note: This review is based on the director's cut.

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