Cinema is an art form worthy of critical insight, close analysis and intense study. It is also, however, a form of entertainment, and the kind of art that touches people deeply, forming unbreakable connections of adoration between the viewer and the film. It is easy to sneer at someone’s favourite film, but to wax lyrically and pour out all your reasons for why a film means something to you is a joyous activity. That is why at Nouse we let our writers write to their heart’s content about the “Movies That Matter”, whether they be critical masterpieces, childhood favourites or the film that made them fall in love with the cinema.Cinema Paradiso is a film about the magic of cinema that itself manages to create that magic. It reminds us why we fall in love with little flickering images and then makes us go head-over-heels all over again.
The story charting the childhood of a now-acclaimed filmmaker 30 years after he left his small Sicilian hometown, is packed with charm, humour and romance, full to the brim with joyful moments. As a child, young Toto is a mischievous tearaway, causing his mother no end of exasperation, and is only calmed by the local cinema and its seemingly gruff but heartwarmingly benevolent projectionist Alfredo. The wide-eyed wonder with which Toto watches the films perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being lost in cinema. For many of the locals, it doesn’t really matter what the film is; it is the ritual of coming together as a community that brings a lot of the happiness. This was just after WWII however and such rituals have now gone by the wayside in the modern era of smartphones and multi-platform releases. Made in the 80s and told in flashback, Cinema Paradiso has that bittersweet tone that so often comes hand-in-hand with nostalgia.
It’s not all rose-tinted romanticism however. As Toto progresses from childhood to adolescence and then to adulthood, it becomes clear that Cinema Paradiso, like life, is not all like “the movies”. Much of the film can be seen as being about avoiding loneliness. The threat of loneliness worries us all and Toto, fatherless and perpetually frustrating his mother, fights it throughout, be it through his friendship with Alfredo, his romance with Elena or the cinema. As the later events unfold and Toto grows up, a slight sadness sets in, mourning what once was whilst accepting that nothing can last for ever. Whether it is in these more melancholic reflections or the moments of pure bliss, Giuseppe Tornatore’s film is always hugely affecting, bringing a tear to the eye with its great emotional power.
To say much more would be to detract from the simplicity of the joy Cinema Paradiso creates. It’s just a delight. Simple as that.