Cinema Paradiso: an ode to cinema

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Traditional old-fashioned cinemas scattered in obscure corners of the globe are now collector’s items, veritable antiques. These modern amphitheatres, with their glorious ephemeral architecture, decorated with specific iconography, in all their striking grandeur have sheltered the insane in love, the horrified, the broken hearted, the laughter and the tears.

The velvet, the burgundy curtains and their assembly of color-coordinated seats, the dim lights and the evocative smell of popcorn that masks the stench of the feet of the man behind you, who is watching you Once upon a time in Hollywood and was drawn to the idea of ​​placing his dirty, mightily nerdy feet on the dusty seat next to you. In religious circles, prayer is a sacred practice that is observed in all walks of life. Like prayer, cinema is seen as almost ecclesiastical and blind regardless of social background, as the 1988 classic shows beautifully. Cinema Paradiso.

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Besides its cuisine, beautiful towns and cities, Italy is perhaps most renowned for its non-secular beliefs and Catholicism, with the Vatican at the very heart of the country. Chapels, churches and cathedrals occupy the epicenter of most towns and villages. However, with Giuseppe Tornatore Paradise Cinema, the cinema is the nucleus of the fictional Sicilian town of Giancaldo (loosely based on Bagheria, near Palermo). The cinema is the beating heart of a poor neighborhood; it is the lifeblood of the neglected and offers refuge and escape from the harsh daily reality of Italian life during World War II.

Cinema viewers are somewhat reminiscent of the faithful, a congregation gathered to witness the distribution of a cinematic sacrament. As the roar of the syndic’s searchlight beams through the gaping mouth of a lion-headed bust, the jam-packed Paradiso is a sea of ​​wondering eyes and gasping breath.

Not only the act of Cinema ParadisoThe community assembly of in the movie theater symbolizes a shared sense of belonging, but through laughter, tears and the joint expression of emotion and reaction to what is being screened, the experience is shared. both in body and in mind. It goes beyond the need to simply be physically present, but like that of a religious environment, Paradiso requires a form of spiritual participation and not just a passive spectator. It’s a community brought together by fantasy.

Cinema Paradiso and his Film Romanticism

The Paradiso not only facilitates community gatherings, but also the film’s central relationship between Salvatore (nicknamed “Toto”), the young boy at the center of the film, and Alfredo, the theater’s aging projectionist, who form an unlikely friendship. The movie theater becomes home to some of Salvatore’s earliest memories, whether peeking cheekily through the curtain or watching classic Hollywood movies such as Sullivan’s Travels and carried away by the wind (although to please the Catholic community and the priest, Alfredo deleted all the kissing scenes from those classic films).

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As such, cinema is treated with a lot of romanticism, even more so than other films. There is an obvious adoration and reverence for cinema itself in many films, whether in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds or the Ming-Iiang Tsai Farewell, Dragon Inn; there and in Paradise Cinema, the respect for old static 35mm rolls, dusty cinema seats and the magic of light channeled through a lens onto a giant silver screen runs deep. There is something inherently sentimental about on-screen depictions of the cinematic experience. Cinema Paradiso is exactly that – sentimental. The plot of the film is inspired by the director’s personal experiences with cinema as a child, the life-changing effect it had on him as a young boy and the impact it had on the career path he has chosen.


The saying “love your job because you’ll never have to work a day in your life” certainly applies to a young Toto, who simply marvels at the big screen and whose zeal for both watching, projecting and making films dominates his life professionally and personally. Even his love life is half played through the film, with Salvatore often admiring his love, Elena, recording it from afar (which would probably mean a one-way ticket to a restraining order these days…).

Movies and nostalgia

With his biological father in the midst of war in Russia and later feared dead, Toto spends his early childhood yearning for the paternal bond he lives without. In the form of Alfredo, that father-sized void in his life is filled. Outside of their perpetual argument/makeup friendship cycle, Alfredo assumes the capacity of an emotionally supportive and wisdom-giving father figure. While the relationship between Toto and Elena is apparently the main romantic narrative thread of the Tornatore film, Alfredo and Toto’s platonic father-son love for each other is really the main “love story”, and the romanticism of cinema was born from the duo’s friendship. and their link to the film. It is also the impetus for the film’s investigation of nostalgia itself.


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When Toto finally leaves Giancaldo, he is warned by Alfredo: “Don’t give in to nostalgia. Forget us all.” Despite adhering to Alfredo’s strict instructions for over 30 years, after his death was announced, Toto’s nostalgic memories lead him to do exactly what the former projectionist had warned him about, which then sees him return to Giancaldo. This arguably makes way for the film’s most poignant aspects, as Alfredo’s untimely demise leads to Salvatore’s catharsis, and he gives in to the thoughts, emotions, and repressed love he still has for Alfredo, Elene, Giancaldo and his education in Sicily. .

The final scene, in which Alfredo’s crafted cinematic cut takes place in front of a now prosperous and older Salvatore, is not just an amalgamation of all the abandoned “pornographic” kissing scenes that Alfredo had previously cut; no, it’s the original soundtrack (or in this case, soundtrack) to Toto’s life, and a beautiful cinematic expression of his relationships with Alfredo, Elena, and his now decrepit hometown. Maybe it’s not nostalgic at all, really, and not a “look back”; perhaps with the medium of the great film, the moments become immortal and the past is paved with eternity. That’s what Cinema Paradiso famous.


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