1988, Movies

Cinema Paradiso (1988, Giuseppe Tornatore)

There is a genre of film that is basically someone remembering their life growing up in a small town. (As opposed to the genre of going home to a small town.) For reasons beyond me, most of the movies I’ve seen in this genre have been Italian -maybe they are better reviewed? – so it’s a genre I associate with Italian cinema. (Even though I know of a really famous UK film in the genre, for example.) It’s not a genre I love because I don’t love nostalgia, especially nostalgia for a place I’ve never been to. (I didn’t grow up in a small town.) But this film is one of the better examples I’ve seen of the genre, though I’m not sure it’s quite so deserving of its reputation.

However, I chose to watch the director’s cut. That turns out to have been a mistake. I didn’t know this when I put the film on, but a shorter version than the director’s cut was pulled from theatres before this movie became a hit. So the version that charmed the world was significantly shorter than the film I watched. (Something like 40 minutes shorter!) That matters because this movie is too long. It’s possible that I wouldn’t have felt that way about the theatrical version. (I will never find out.)

I suspect what was cut was most of the love story, which feels pretty damn superfluous to a film that is about the power of film in a small town. When the film pulls away from the titular cinema to the girl, it really does. The point is made but I wonder if the point could have been made more economically.

I don’t like the people in this film, as I usually don’t like the people in films set in Italian small towns. (And often don’t like the people in Italian films in general…) I don’t want to spend time in this place with these people, especially in a theatre. (This audience is The Worst movie audience.)

But this film manages to be amusing enough, at least when the hero is a little boy. And because the film is centred around the idea of film as an escape from this kind of life, I find it much more effective than the usual films like this, which basically just say “Hey wasn’t my simple life in this tiny town great? Didn’t I lose something when I went to the big city?” (To which I inevitably answer: “No, doesn’t look like it to me.”)

The version I watched was far from a masterpiece. But it handled this story much better than the other Italian films I’ve seen of its ilk. (Those usually bore me to tears and intermittently make me crazy.) And it’s certainly a reminder that I had a pretty great life, growing up in a city in which teenagers would allow me to watch R-rated movies in theatres when I was 15 because I was so tall I had to be of legal age. (Rather than having a priest edit the film for me.)

7/10

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