Cinema Paradiso (1989)
Genre: Drama (Italy, France)
Starring: Salvatore Cascio, Enzo Cannavale
Directed By: Giuseppe Tornatore (Maléna)
Overview: When a man hears of the death of the projectionist from his home town, he relives the memories of his youth, and the friendship they shared.
Acting: Alright, when you watch Foreign Drama, odds are they'll be brilliantly acted. European directors tend to have an even bigger ego than the stars themselves, so they rule the roost. This is a good thing. That way they can tell the actor to do it again as many times as it takes to get right. This one? They got right. Moving stuff.
Cinematography: The style is minimalist, allowing the focus to be on the characters themselves, yet we are graced with many moments of artistic display. Scenes where we pan along an alleyway towards a church, or just the look of a family's impoverished home add a subtle subtext of why cinema is important to the boy, while showing at the same time why it should be the furthest thing from his mind, according to his mother. The lack of razzle-dazzle is perfectly on purpose, and really works.
Script: Dramatic, funny, sad... every element of the perfect drama that is meant to sum up a man's life. We experience the world of a child as he grows up during the era of the Second World War and watch as the love of film gets passed down to him in little life lessons, regardless of the fact that the child only hears what's important. It's nice to watch a character's development when it's done so well.
Plot: For me the story faltered when the boy hit adolescence. His desires for the projection booth were less pure than in his childhood, or in his return to the village after the death of his projectionist friend, but it is a wonderful story, and with such a powerful ending that you'll really appreciate what you've seen. Heart-warming to say the least.
Mood: This film is about a boy's love of film, and the man who taught him everything there was to know about it. At the same time it is a sad tale of transition, a comment that we long for a simpler time, and when set in a small Italian village, where the best entertainment is the Cinema Paradiso, you find yourself very much immersed in its themes, an island of fantasy amidst a land of harsh reality.
Overall Rating: 84% (Magnifico!)
Aftertaste: Well date movies tend to make movies better, no doubt, but this has been on my list for a while now, and I'll tell you that if you're looking for excitement, you won't find it here. This is European dramatic cinema, and it tends to be about as far from Kung-Fu Hustle as you'll get, but as we get older, we learn that an honest story about someone's passions and character might just teach you more than a backfist in the back of the head. A great touching film to share.