The film starts by showing a middle-aged man, Salvatore, surrounded by society's symbols of success: bright city lights, a Mercedes Benz, a luxurious mansion, and a beautiful woman in the background. These symbols gave the impression that life was good. “Cinema Paradiso” is a reminiscence film about a famous film director, Salvatore Di Vita (Marco Leonardi), who returns home to a Sicilian village for the first time after almost 30 years. He reminisces about his childhood at the Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the projectionist, helped little Salvatore a. . a Toto discover the entertaining world of films.
He is also reminded of his lost teenage love, Elena (Agnese Nano). Their love story became the greatest movie story within the movie itself, directed by Giusepe Tornatore and won the 1988 Best Foreign film and shared other 18 awards and 12 nominations. The Cinema Paradiso is the center of the town when Salvatore is a child. Nothing in town is more important than the theater. People go there to visit and enjoy each other's company. In some cases one would look at the theater as a symbol of togetherness.
At the end of the film it is clear because the theater is no longer in use, the community has somewhat disconnected from each other. The theater represents the heart of the town and the old way of life. As a child, Toto loved both the movies and the people that he could see at the theater. In the evenings, the entire town would gather to watch films. The heart and soul of the town was in that theater. However, when Salvatore returns, he finds that the theater is now in the middle of a busy, crowded square. No longer the center and important part of the town, the theater has lost all its beauty.
The VCR has put the theater out of service, and the building is finally to be torn down. The movie’s greatest strength lies on its sound and shot quality making it a great movie to watch. The background music delivers you exactly to the emotion each scene presents. With its shot quality, every scene is in bright, full color giving everything in fine details. It also adds up to the emotion-building all throughout the show, if at some times you feel tired of watching, the backgrounds like the horizon or the sea gives your eyes relaxation, resting your eyes with clear and hi resolution images.
The production design is also superb the concept of making the theater as the main element in the story was executed perfectly. The sets and the locations where all fit to the storyline. For the script, viewers will find half of the movie as a silent movie, showing only the emotions but when the characters speak, the lines are always with substance full of lessons, coupled with comical, romantic and emotional lines that best suite the characters themselves. For the characters, the cast gave a great deal of personification to their roles.
For instance, the Salvatore kid and the Salvatore teen were consistent as far the personality of the role is concerned sure there are changes but these changes are actually a solidification of the fact that the character is growing in the story. Other characters like Alfredo and Elena where also sensational especially the old Elena wherein the change of personality also happened. For the post production, the editing was quite good. Viewers will be surprised to learn that it was produced in 1988 because both the editing and the cinematography are superb.
The shots as mentioned earlier were of good quality and the transitions were not exaggerated or even poorly done; simple cuts and fades where all that was needed to produce a good transition scene per scene. It doesn’t make one dizzy unlike most movies which capitalizes on over transitions, it’s just enough to make you realize that a major event has ended. This movie also made use of natural transitions where ordinary objects where used as a point for scene changes. I found a very strong image when the camera showed a close up of Salvatore coming back for Alfredo's funeral.
When his mother dropped he ball of yarn, and all the stitches unraveled. I saw it as, all the years that Salvatore was gone were accumulated, but the second he came back, it was like going back in time. It was if she forgot about everything, all the years of her son gone, but all of a sudden everything is back to normal, and life is good. At the point of the films conclusion, one can really see how this one instrumental good can change the lives for Salvatore, Alfredo and for the entire community of Giancaldo.
The fact that Salvatore had such respect for Alfredo really made it emotional at the end of the movie. Ever since Salvatore left his home to pursue his dream, it was clear that there was still something missing in his life. His attachment to Giancaldo never left his mind. One was able to see this by how he sent his family money every month since he was gone. Even though he didn't call, or visit, it was his only way to show that they were still in his mind. Being away from his home, and being as successful as he is now he forgot how it was to be in love. His detachment from his home was critical.
I feel that being away from Giancaldo for so long, made him realize his love and passion towards his family and the sense of community. Alfredo had a big impact on Salvador's life. I felt that, throughout the years Alfredo had seen the passion that Salvatore had for film, and because of their close friendship, Alfredo wanted to see him succeed. Making Salvatore promise not to come back and visit, didn't make much sense to me, I can see that Alfredo wanted him to pursue his dream, but at the same time he made him disconnect from the life that he was living.
At the end of the film I really appreciated the relationship that Alfredo and Salvatore had with each other. Alfredo saw this young troubled boy with such curiosity, and it was Alfredo who decided to teach him, and be the father he never had. Being such an important figure in Salvatore's life, he had the right to worry about him not turning out to be alone and unsuccessful like Alfredo. In his return to his life in Rome, he was left with a gift from Alfredo who gave him a film reel containing all the censored parts of the movies they had shown before in Cinema Paradiso.
He then realized that even though he failed in his relationships for the past years, he had one true friend who had always wanted success and happiness for him above anything. The movie theater was a huge part of the lives of the people who lived in Giancaldo. Not only was the theater a great source of entertainment, but it was a place of togetherness. Even though it was a small community, I feel that the cinema was responsible for the town to be so close to each other. At the end of the film I felt that the closing of the theater really changed things in the town for the worse. There was no longer that sense of togetherness.
Earlier on in the film, when the theater was open, one was able to see how close the community was. At the end, the whole community was changed, the same people were there, but it was clear that something was missing in their lives. The purpose of cinema in general is not just a form of entertainment; it is a form of art. A good example of this was at the end of the movie where Toto watches the film that Alfredo made him. Even though it was a montage of kissing scenes, Salvatore saw more than that. Film is an art; there is a certain emotion and pleasure one gets from a film, similar in looking at a beautiful painting.
If I had the choice to change something about the film, it would be the ending. I feel that I was left on the edge of my seat, there were a lot of things that could have been answered; like what happened to the town of Giancaldo, what happens to his relationship with his mother and sister, and if Salvatore will find a true love. "Cinema Paradiso” is a movie about growing up, love, leaving and returning home, loss and success. Its first part illustrates a flashback of Salvatore's life in Sicily, how he fell in love with movies with Alfredo's guidance, and how he and his beloved Elena started a romance that ended bitterly.
The latter part shows his return from Rome to his hometown for Alfredo's funeral and some revelations of past events that caused him to live a nostalgic life for thirty years though he had been successful in his career. Two critical opinions that I found about the theme of this movie were: “films celebrate the role of cinema - and life itself - and are inherently optimistic in their outlook, if only for the fact that we, the audience, can learn to appreciate the importance of love without the devastation the characters in the film had to suffer. ” (Dan Heller's Movie Review of "Cinema Paradiso").
I agree with this opinion because I also think the film shows how important of a role the cinema plays in the lives of Italian people. It gave the people something to look forward too in a life where things were not so good. Another one I found was: “`Cinema Paradiso' is not just about the relationship or tragedy of Toto and Alfredo. It's about the loss of a whole culture, a whole era -- a time when . . . movies and distribution weren't calculated, homogenized and marketed to death, and when the people who showed and watched them loved them madly.
When Salvatore the movie aristocrat watches, in a modern screening room, the last gift bequeathed to him by his old peasant-worker friend, it's a moment of epiphany that goes beyond sentimentality. It's a flood of passion, a collage of tenderness. It suggests the moment when cinema, released in the dark, almost becomes paradise. " (`Cinema Paradiso' now hits new level). I agreed and really liked the theme presented by this author. I agree that this movie showed how times were changing. How there is a disconnect between people in today’s world.
I found the part about the end, where being in a dark movie theater is like a paradise. Upon watching the entire movie, I was left with an impression that "one cannot have everything in life". There will always be choices to make and something must always be let go, even if it is difficult and painful. In the movie's context, Salvatore both fell in love with Elena and movies but he eventually pursued the latter because of a huge wall that forbade their relationship. For more than thirty years, he searched for Elena but they never found her, eventually leaving him to follow his other passion.
He had made a mark in the movie industry as a director and cinematographer but personally, he was in deep pain. He had had strings of relationships with other women before but no one can replace his one true love. In his return to his hometown, he met the people whom he had lived with in the past. He also got together with Elena for a short period of time only to realize that she was already married, was a mother of two, and was happy with her life, although this was not the life that she had dreamt of.