Some people said they returned to writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso as many as six or seven times during its theatrical run. It’s easy to understand how last year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar-winner inspires such loyalty: Tornatore’s loving, bittersweet, semiautobiographical tale of growing up in a small Sicilian town is sentimentally irresistible. Watching it on video offers the distinct advantage of having some privacy while your heart is broken.
At the Cinema Paradiso, the young Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) falls in love with the movies, even though all the kissing scenes have been censored by the local priest. Salvatore saves the Paradiso projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) from a fire and then serves as his eyes after he is blinded by the flames. Alfredo teaches the boy about both movies and life. The latter, Alfredo explains, is ”harder.”
Tornatore frames his beautifully felt film with the older Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), 30 years after he has left Sicily, receiving word of Alfredo’s death. The news releases a flood of memory. Cinema Paradiso is an often rapturous and always passionate work — a fairground of sensory impressions and feelings — in which the passage of time becomes an intensely moving experience for the viewer. ”Whatever you end up doing,” Alfredo advises, ”love it.” How carefully and well the young Tornatore listened. A