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Cinema Paradiso:

Cinema Paradiso:
The New Version

1988 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic 16:9 / 174, 155, 123 min. / Nuovo cinema Paradiso / Street Date February 18, 2003 / $29.99
Starring Philippe Noiret, Antonella Attili, Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, Jacques Perrin, Agnese Nano, Brigitte Fossey, Pupella Maggio, Leopoldo Trieste
Cinematography Blasco Giurato
Production Designer Andrea Crisanti
Film Editor Mario Morra
Original Music Ennio and Andrea Morricone
Produced by Mino Barbera, Franco Cristaldi, Giovanna Romagnoli
Written and Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

The foreign movie splash of 1990, Cinema Paradiso was a solid hit and award winner for Giuseppe Tornatore. Films that invoke the love of movies and the dreams they inspire often turn into mush, but Tornatore's tale of the life of a ragtag tot who projects in a provincial Sicilian theater, and the romance of his life, manages to mix cinema, with the cinema in the cinema, and come out on top.

Slashed by a half hour for American audiences, Cinema Paradiso is one of many Miramax films still being regularly cut down upon import, a practice that few seem to notice in pictures such as Like Water for Chocolate (123 to 105 min.) and Amelie (129 to 122 min.). Savant at first thought this 'special' disc was Miramax's way of giving us what we should have been given in the first place, but this is actually an extended cut 19 minutes longer than the original, and 51 minutes longer than the old American release. This new disc is a flipper, it also contains the old short cut for ready comparison.


Although his mother (Antonella Attili) objects, tiny Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) hangs out at the Cinema Paradiso, where projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) lets him play with the dangerous nitrate film clips, and watch while Father Aldelfio (Leopoldo Trieste) censors each new film before it screens, so as to be free of kisses, bare legs, and nudity. Unforseen events cause Salvatore to take Alfredo's place as projectionist, and the changes in Italian cinema cruise by as he grows into manhood, frustrated by some things in his life, and enchanted by the love of his life, Elena (Agnese Nano).

Practically a multi-generational story on the order of an Edna Ferber epic, Cinema Paradiso uses a flashback format, for a fiftyish Salvatore, played by actor Jacques Perrin of Z, to reminisce about the magic of his youth and his bittersweet romance with Elena.

Director Tornatore uses his slightly-stylized techniques to lend a quality of magic realism to some scenes, such as the carved lion projector port that comes alive in one dramatic scene. We see many film clips projected on the Paradiso's old screen, familiar Italian classics like La Terra Trema and Il Grido, and many (public domain) American titles - It's a Wonderful Life, Stagecoach. Tornatore doesn't play games with film history, and the titles help film fans keep the chronology of the movie straight. They also make mild comments on Salvatore's situation: trapped in Giancaldo for the summer, he shows Ulysses, and we see the scene where they cyclops Polyphemus suffers in blind agony.

Tornatore definitely comes from the 'glowing memory' school of continental filmmaking, where the European past is seen in a nostalgic light, and picturesque locales are made to look gorgeous, better than they could possibly have been for real. Salvatore's little stone town is a stunner, for sure.

Getting things off to a magical start are veteran Philipe Noiret (Thérèse Desqueyroux, Coup de torchon, Il Postino) and young Salvatore Cascio, the cutest little boy ever in the movies. The mystery of life is seen through his eyes - the loss of his father in news delayed long after the war's end, Alfredo's accident, and the birth of a new Cinema Paradiso.

Salvatore makes his own 16mm movies, and goes directly from recording the goings-on in a slaughterhouse, Franju-style, to using his camera to snatch precious images of the beautiful but unapproachable Elena, whom he worships from afar. Thankfully, there's nothing Peeping Tom-ish about his intentions, but (spoiler) in the long run his patience does no good, and fate separates the pair. The romantic finales Salvatore wonders at in the movies, don't seem to work for him in real life.

In the shorter version we saw in 1990, the middle-aged Salvatore journeys to Giancaldo and turns over the ashes of his earlier life, witnessing the dynamiting of the Paradiso to make way for a parking lot. Then he returns to Rome and screens a special film Alfredo saved for him over the years, providing a clever but organically sound 'cinematic' conclusion.

The longer original Italian version presumably retained longer versions of many earlier scenes, and other moments and scenes that would have fleshed out the show. But this 2002 'new version' is a director's recut that reshuffles some scenes and reinstates a plot line, complete with characters & actors not seen in either version released before.

The added material is great, emotionally wrenching content that amplifies the original, and in a way pays off the movie - it's strange to discover a whole new dimension to a film one already admires. Without divulging what the big deal is, I can say that events both in 1960 and the present are revealed to have been much more complicated. The added material is all central to the main romance, and will be an eye-opener. It makes Cinema Paradiso a much deeper and more ironic love story.

A major role in the added footage is played by Brigitte Fossey, who was famous as the child star of the unforgettable 1952 Forbidden Games by René Clément ... the little blonde girl. Forty years later, she's still beautiful. She's an excellent choice for a film dedicated to our cinema heritage.

So Miramax dodges the axe this time, by not just fixing one of their butchered releases, but allowing its director to restore his original cut. It is long, there's no denying. Not only is the pacing a bit lacking, but the final modern section seems to be starting a new movie, and there's always resistance to that. At three hours, seeing how its destiny would be DVD anyway, Tornatore should have worked in an intermission. I saw it in two halves over two nights, an plan I recommend.

Once again, Ennio Morricone provides a score worth dying for ... when is this man going to get his due at the Oscars?

Miramax's DVD of Cinema Paradiso barely explains what it is. The extended long cut and the old release reside on opposite sides of a flipper disc, and both are handsomely mastered, although the new cut looks better (and has a new Stereo mix).

Viewers who dote on Cinema Paradiso, and want to try similar, if less romantic fare from the same director, should try Everything's Fine (Stanno tutti bene) - not yet out on DVD, and The Legend of 1900.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Cinema Paradiso - The New Version rates:
Two versions on a flipper disc
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Reissue promo
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 15, 2003

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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