We excitedly countdown to the 72nd Festival de Cannes with a different prize winning film each day.
Nuovo cinema Paradiso / Cinema Paradiso, 1989
Grand Prix – Giuseppe Tornatore
Giuseppe Tornatore has had a passionate eye for film for as long as he could remember. As a boy, born and raised in Bagheria, Sicily, he just wanted a camera to capture stories, images, actions. When he did eventually get himself a video camera, he would just go outside and shoot.
The essence of Cinema Paradiso came from that childhood love of film. That exhilaration of waiting in line to see The Good The Bad and The Ugly, and the life-long impact that movie had. Going to the movies. Seeing the stories, images, actions of others captured on the big screen.
Anyone who has seen Cinema Paradiso, those that just know of its existence, can blatantly see this is conceived from the adoration of the moving pictures. A love letter to the magnitude and emotion cinema, and the experience seeing such spectacles through the eyes of a child. Tornatore was a projectionist himself for a while, before the cinema closed down.
Tornatore’s fascination and reverence for the visual image has followed him throughout his childhood, and into adulthood. And of course, perfectly fitting for a man dreaming of making such images a reality on the big screen. Just look at the multitude of photographs confronted by a character in A Pure Formality (Una pura formalità), or the wondrous site of Malèna walking by, boys’ mouths agape.
“And that cinematic power, almost redefined and renewed as we grow older, epitomizes the final moments of Cinema Paradiso.”
And that cinematic power, almost redefined and renewed as we grow older, epitomizes the final moments of Cinema Paradiso. Awe-inspired, and moved beyond words, middle-aged Salvatore has little choice but to embrace the moving images in front of him on the screen. His teacher, his role model, his old friend, Alfredo, leaves him the remnants of those pictures cut for censorship.
Cinema Paradiso, also shot and set in Sicily, starts with Salvatore just six years-old. Told in three-section flashback, now famous filmmaker, Salvatore Di Vita, takes a trip down memory lane, decades after his elusive childhood experiences. It is, though, sad news that begs his return.
Little Toto is cheeky, fresh-faced kid, lapping up a wide-eyed love for film at the local movie theatre, Cinema Paradiso. And there starts his unique friendship and a kind of behind-the-wall film education with the projectionist, Alfredo. One of cinema’s all-time great father-figures. Because of the local prudish priest, however, scenes of romance or kissing are cut from the film, causing audiences to become rowdy.
As a teenager, Salvatore has been operating the projector to help the now impaired Alfredo. Their friendship is stronger than ever, and it is Salvatore who now experiments with a movie camera. A love interest emerges in the form of Elena, but her parents are against the relationship, and she and the family leave.
“The filmmaker’s storytelling is breezy, romantic, and executed with the perfect kind of cinema sentimentality.”
As we return to middle-aged Salvatore, some thirty years later, his poignant journey finds him a gift left by Alfredo. A film reel, which when Salvatore takes him to watch, he finds a remarkable collections of the clips that were cut from the movies all those years ago. It’s a beautiful scene, as teary-eyed Salvatore watches the cut-together footage of kisses, naked flesh, moments of passion etc.
Giuseppe Tornatore literally put his heart into this project. Re-imagining the wonders of film, and how that love grew and grew over the years from a child to a man. The filmmaker’s storytelling is breezy, romantic, and executed with the perfect kind of cinema sentimentality. Celebrating the art of filmmaking is a common force over the decades of the motion picture, Cinema Paradiso is one of the finest examples of such a spectacle.
How apt, too, that Tornatore grew up with some of those great slices of cinema scored by the wondrous, immortal Ennio Morricone. The composer’s work here is extraordinary, and clearly one of his most popular and accomplished scores. And that’s saying something, I guess. Sitting in front of a movie, letting the magic just envelope you, is the core of what makes Cinema Paradiso a classic of cinematic storytelling.