Take a Drink: for bells
Take a Drink: whenever Toto is a little shit
Take a Drink: whenever Alfredo helps him out
Take a Drink: for each visit to the theater
Take a Drink: for child abuse
Take a Drink: for politics and spitting
Take a Drink: whenever Toto works a projector
Do a Shot: Fire!
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Cinema Paradiso may be the only film actually improved by studio interference. Originally released as a 155 minute cut in Italy to little fanfare and mixed critical reaction, Miramax acquired the international distribution rights to the film and lopped off 31 of them, including a third act twist where we discover the kindly mentor single-handedly destroys his young friend’s romance in order to propel him to bigger and better things.
Imagine if Alfred had been secretly working for Ra’s Al Ghul all along.
This tinkering understandably changed the tale… into a universally loved and critically acclaimed awards juggernaut. I never thought I’d say this, but nicely done, studio! Cinema Paradiso is the tale of the unlikely friendship between a little Italian hooligan and an irascible old theater projectionist with a heart of gold, told through the hazy, rose-tinted lenses of memory and nostalgia.
Cinema Paradiso tries to be many things and reconcile a range of tones- and succeeds beautifully. The film begins as a grown-up, obviously successful Toto learns of the death of his old friend and mentor, and spends a sleepless night reminiscing about the past. Both Toto’s (and Director Guiseppe Tornatore’s) deep, melancholic nostalgia for a simpler time and place pervade the film, but don’t overpower it. The predominant theme, instead, is joy- joy for the magic of cinema, the joy of young love, the joy of deep and abiding friendships, joy in the face of tragedy and tribulation.
Not Joy from Accounting, though, who has the most oxymoronic name ever.
This would be impossible to pull off without the right cast, and in Philippe Noiret and little Salvatore Cascio we have a comic and dramatic duo for the ages. Noiret both looks and feels like a friendlier French Walter Matthau- prickly on the surface but tender-hearted and wise, and Cascio is both a cute and endearing little asshole who knows what buttons to push to get what he wants. Their interplay is unfailingly hilarious and entirely authentic.
Marco Leonardi, playing teenage Toto, can’t match the charisma of his young counterpart, but does a good job as a lovestruck teenager, and Tornatore bolsters this section of the film with some truly romantic, imagery (that rain scene!). In general, Tornatore works wonders with colors, and peppers the film with evocative visual symbolism and edits. It’s quite pretty, but what really ties it all together with a bow on top is Ennio and his son Andrea Morricone’s iconic, goosebump-raising score, one of his finest in a career full of masterpieces.
Sorry, Marco, but you can’t touch this.
Salvatore is the original P.I.M.P.
The film inevitably drags after that bravura cut from child to teenage Toto, and the romance isn’t always as compelling as it’d like to be, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Like many folks’ teen years, have a beer and they’ll fly by.
While it’s certainly not without its imperfections, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be drawn into this touching ode to friendship, film, and community.