Film / Cinema Paradiso

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"Ora che ho perso la vista, ci vedo di più." ("Now that I lost my vision, I can see more.")
Alfredo

Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 film from Italy, written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.

It is a romantic drama about a famous Italian film director Salvatore Di Vita, who recalls his childhood in the little town of Giancaldo. As a boy there he fell in love with the movies at the "Cinema Paradiso" theater, and formed a deep friendship with the theatre's projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret).

It also tells the story of his return to his native village for his friend Alfredo's funeral. Ultimately, Alfredo serves as a wise father figure to his young friend who only wishes the best to see Salvatore succeed, even if it means breaking Sal's heart in the process.

Ennio Morricone composed the music.

Re-released in 2002 in a Director's Cut version that ran 173 minutes. For tropes found in the director's cut, see the bottom of the page.


This film provides examples of:

  • Age Cut: Alfredo touches Salvatore's face affectionately. He drops his hand, and Salvatore has aged from schoolboy to young man.
  • All Cloth Unravels: Salvatore's aged mother is knitting when he shows up. She runs to the door, needle in hand. Her knitting, stuck in the seam of the seat cushion, unravels.
  • And Starring: Philippe Noiret gets an "And With" credit.
  • The Artifact: In the theatrical version there's a comment near the end of the movie, where Alfredo's caretaker says that Alfredo's last words were of Salvatore, saying "He must never know." This pretty much dangles out there with no explanation. The Re-Cut version explains what that means; see the bottom of the page.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Salvatore's dogged pursuit of Elena triumphantly concludes with her rushing into the projection booth and kissing him, a kiss passionate enough that Salvatore doesn't notice the reel ending, much to the displeasure of the filmmakers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Alfredo dies, and the Cinema Paradiso, which has been abandoned for years, is demolished. And Salvatore never did find love, apparently. But he did become a film director of great renown.
  • Celebrity Paradox: One of the posters on Salvatore's wall is of a movie called The White Sheik, which starred Leopoldo Trieste, Father Adelfio in this film.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Twice - once when Alfredo talks about the dangers of fire in the projector room and it happens, then the censored bits of film make an appearance at the end, as Alfredo's last gift.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: A rather bitter example.
  • Confessional: Salvatore, though not a priest, sneaks into the priest side, and Elena comes in the other side to make confession. She figures it out, but takes it well.
  • Creator Cameo: Tornatore appears as a film projectionist working for adult Salvatore near the end of the film.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: A Brigitte Bardot movie is playing. Brigitte doesn't have any clothes on. Cut to a whole row of teen boys jerking off in the theater, until they're caught by an usher.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In the international theatrical version that won the Oscar, we never find out why Elena didn't show up for her meeting with Salvatore. In the re-cut version we do; see Re-Cut at the bottom of this page.
  • The General's Daughter: Salvatore comes back from the army and tells Afredo this anecdote:
    At the Christmas party the lieutenant pinches a girl's ass. The girl turns around: it's the daughter of the commanding officer. The lieutenant is scared to death and says: 'Miss, if your heart is as hard as what I have just touched, I'm done for!"
  • How We Got Here: Most of the film is taken up by Salvatore remembering his childhood.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: As a little boy Salvatore forms a friendship with Alfredo the projectionist, who has to be at least 40 years older than he is.
  • Match Cut:
    • From the priest ringing his little bell to signal what has to be censored from the movie, to the church bells ringing.
    • From a teenaged Salvatore burying his face in his hands after Elena doesn't make their rendezvous, to an adult Salvatore doing the same.
  • Melting-Film Effect: A film that's being projected is melting on the screen, just before it disastrously catches fire. Of course we're talking about nitrate film here, pre-safety stock.
  • Mood Whiplash: The triumphant scene where Alfredo projects a movie out onto the town square is directly followed by the film catching fire and burning the whole theater down.
  • Moral Guardians: The village priest insists on previewing every film shown at the cinema and makes Alfredo censor all the "sexy" bits, including if the characters so much as kiss. The cut bits will later turn out as a tearjerking Chekhov's Gun in the end.
  • The Movie Buff: Alfredo loves the films he's projected, and can quote most of them extensively (in Italian, as they're dubbed).
  • New Year Has Come: A despairing Salvatore finally gives up his month-long nightly vigils outside Elena's apartment on the night of New Year's 1954-55. (Apparently small-town Italians celebrate the new year by chucking glass bottles out the window.)
  • The One Who Made It Out: Alfredo urges Salvatore not to stick around Giancaldo working the projector and listening to his stories. He tells Salvatore that he has to get out, so he can become the success that Alfredo knows he can be. And he's right, as Salvatore leaves and becomes a film director of great renown.
  • Romantic Rain: While at Cinema Paradiso, a sudden thunderstorm blows through as Salvatore is lying on the ground; suddenly, Elena surprises him by lying on top of him for a kiss, much to his surprise. As people run for cover, and the movies still play, Salvatore and Elena enjoy a nice make-out session.
  • Same Language Dub: Phillipe Noiret spoke in French and all his dialogue was dubbed into Italian.
  • Show Within a Show: Many films shown onscreen at the Cinema Paradiso.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: When Toto returns home from his conscripted service in the army, he has found that his home town is very different. Alfredo advises him to leave forever and he does, until Alfredo dies.
  • Timeshifted Actor: Salvatore is played by three different actors (child, teenager, adult). The director later admitted that Jacques Perrin, the grown-up Salvatore, was way too tall and looked nothing like the child and teen versions.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: When Salvatore leaves the town for good. Amusingly, it's the priest who shows up late and runs after the train waving goodbye.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The whole movie is a grown-up Salvatore remembering his past.

Tropes unique to the 2002 Director's Cut:

  • Auto Erotica: A middle-aged Salvatore and Elena bonking in the car after their reunion.
  • Re-Cut: The first version of the film was unpopular with Italian audiences and reduced to 2 hours for its international cinema release, which was highly successful. Later, around 50 minutes were re-added for the director's cut of the movie, available on DVD. One scene shows a teenaged Salvatore getting serviced by a prostitute at the Paradiso. Most of the new material has Salvatore meeting Elena again and finding out she got married, which doesn't stop them from enjoying a little adulterous Auto Erotica. She tells him that the reason she didn't come back for their meeting was because Alfredo intercepted her, and convinced her to give up Salvatore, so Salvatore would be free to leave town and become a big success.
  • The Reveal: This version only has an adult Elena telling Salvatore that Alfredo got her to break up with him, so that Salvatore wouldn't get tied down in their little village.
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