Cinema Paradiso (1988)


“Life isn’t like in the movies. Life is much harder.”

The last few months have been strong, with another magnificent film. Cinema Paradiso feels like the heartwarming classic they’d show on movie day in a middle school classroom. It’s very conventional; how it’s written and directed are nothing new, but it seems more charming than most films of its nature. Movies about movies will always strike a chord with cinephiles over anyone else, and if they’re done well, they’ll hit you in that special place where Cinema Paradiso resides.

Salvatore Di Vita, nicknamed Toto, is a famous filmmaker reflecting on his childhood in Italy. As a wily six-year-old, Toto befriends his village’s projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), who urges Toto to rise above his humble beginnings and follow his passions wherever they may lead him. With a familiar structure and a dash of magic, the film is a coming-of-age tale that clings to your heart and inspires you to chase your dreams, feeling at times like a genuine fairy tale.

I’m not sure how much the cinephile-pandering was responsible for my love of this movie, but I imagine it was a big influence. Tornatore films the projection booth with such care, and Noiret brings a powerful performance as the man behind the magic. Cinema Paradiso makes being a projectionist seem like the coolest job in the world, until it doesn’t anyone, and this is where the movie really gripped me. As Alfredo loses his vision and becomes a lonely shut-in, he pushes for Toto to become something greater in a sad but inspiring plea for him to never return to the village, and it resonates as the most genuine moment in the movie.

I also adore the atmosphere that Tornatore creates. I love the scene where the priest has to screen all the films before they are shown to the public, ringing his bell in disgust if two characters appear to be getting intimate. I also love the mob mentality of the village, with Alfredo as a sort of king among them. The scene where he projects the film outdoors to the public is a wonderful moment of triumph and rebellion, reminiscent of the Mozart scene in Shawshank Redemption.

I think the first act overpowers the second, but they’re both beautiful, and I think I’m just somber on the idea of things getting harder when childhood is portrayed so wonderfully. That’s the gut punch of Cinema Paradiso, though, that it lulls you into an illusion of safety and innocence, only to make the claim that at some point you have to be bold and work hard to find beauty, and that it doesn’t always come for free.

This film was a wonderful delight that has such a wide appeal, I would recommend it to just about anyone. It’s among the finest coming-of-age films, and for anyone with a passion for movies, it will only pull you even further into that happy place.

Films Left to Watch: 843

About Travis

I'm a software engineer reviewing a bunch of movies.
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