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During his childhood in a post-war Sicilian village, Salvatore di Vita (Salvatore Cascio) becomes entranced by the movies. Alfredo (Phillipe Noiret), the projectionist at the local cinema, befriends Salvatore and teaches him the mysteries of the craft. As a young man, Salvatore succeeds Alfredo in the projection booth at Cinema Paradiso and falls in love with banker's daughter Elena. Dreaming of making his own films one day, Salvatore follows Alfredo's advice and moves to Rome. Thirty years after leaving everything behind, Salvatore receives news of Alfredo's death and returns to confront his past.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Giuseppe Tornatore's crowd-pleaser didn't need most of its final, sombre act to win the Grand Jury prize at Cannes or the Oscar for best Foreign Language Film. After flopping on first release in Italy, Tornatore cut his 170 minute original down to two hours and the awards and crowds flocked in. I haven't seen the truncated version but after watching this full-length cut I'm glad I waited thirteen years for the restoration.

While there's no denying the appeal of old basset-face Phillipe Noiret and cheeky young Salvatore Cascio as master and apprentice of the movie projection business,
the overbearing sentimentality of the first two acts stretches goodwill a long way. Too cute is Tornatore's depiction of a Sicilian backwater in the grip of post-war economic hardships that are easily overcome, it seems, by simply filing into Cinema Paradiso for a dose of Renoir or Visconti. Filming in his hometown of Bagheria, Tornatore wallows in two hours of nostalgia for an imagined past before finally adding some backbone to the tale. Cinema Paradiso is at its best in the contemporary scenes featuring Jacques Perrin as the middle-aged Salvatore, now an acclaimed film director, making painful discoveries on his first visit home in thirty years.

Melancholy suffuses his search for the teenage love he left behind; its resolution beautifully played by Perrin and Brigitte Fossey whose performance had been consigned to the cutting room floor until now. Inevitably it's optimism and wonder Tornatore leaves us with but by the time Salvatore watches one final reel of 35mm the emotion is so much more rewarding than in the often gooey mist preceding it. There are no extras to speak of here; just a fascinating and much more complex film than the one most of us are familiar with.

Published July 25, 2002

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(Italy - 1988)

CAST: Phillipe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Leopold Trieste, Salvatore Ascio

DIRECTOR: Giussepe Tornatore

RUNNING TIME: 170 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and Crew Biogs, Trailer. Language: Italian. Subtitles, English.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: The AV Channel/Umbrella Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: May 8, 2002

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