My Favourite Film
Why I love… Cinema Parasdiso
A beautifully shot celebration of the art of cinema – that’s what’s stuck with brand editor Andy Clough and that’s why Cinema Paradiso is his favourite film…
I have a love/hate relationship with the cinema. Don’t get me wrong: I adore films. But the actual experience of going to the cinema does my head in.
Every time I go to my local multiplex to watch the latest blockbuster (the most recent was Gravity) I’m surrounded by popcorn-munching, sweet-rustling adults and teenagers who insist on talking or texting each other all the way through the film. For heaven’s sake, if you want a chat, go to the nearest pub or café, not the cinema.
OK, so I know I’m already sounding like a grumpy old man. But here’s the thing: going to the cinema should be an experience, and one to relish. One of the many memories I have of seeing Cinema Paradiso for the first time was that I saw it in the beautiful Electric cinema in London’s Notting Hill.
Now that’s a proper cinema: small, inviting, nice comfy seats (or even sofas if you sit with a group of friends at the back) and its own bar. Perfect. In many ways, it reminds me of the Cinema Paradiso in the film itself, which is at the heart of village life. People go there as a means of escapism from the hardships of their everyday lives.
Movies as they should be
Cinema Paradiso is an homage to the art of film making and cinema as it ought to be, the work of Sicilian writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore. Set in a small town in 1950s Italy, before the advent of multichannel TV, video and computer games, it tells the tale of a small boy Salvatore (known affectionately as Toto) and his friend Alberto, the projectionist at the local cinema.
Toto is fascinated by film, and spends all his spare time in the projection room watching films through a small hole in the wall, hording old bits of film from the cutting room floor and generally annoying Alberto who becomes something of a surrogate father to the boy.
As an adult, Toto follows his passion and goes on to be a famous, and highly successful, film director. It’s a simple tale, but lovingly told. Years later, living in Rome, he gets a phone call to tell him that Alberto has died. A trip back to his home town for the funeral brings the memories flooding back.
Beauty in the Blu-ray
I was prompted to watch the film again recently after discovering that a special 25th anniversary, re-mastered edition had been issued on Blu-ray. Time had not played tricks on my memory: the film was just as beautiful, life-enhancing and cinematic as I remembered. Opening the Blu-ray box on December 23rd (OK, I admit, it was an early Christmas present to myself!) out tumbled two discs: one with the original theatrical release I’d seen before, and the second – oh joy! – the full director’s cut.
As the rain lashed against the windows and 80mph winds threatened to take the roof off the house (it did actually bring the TV aerial down), I curled up on the sofa for a three-hour stint watching the full-length extended version which fills in some of the back story of Toto’s adult life.
The re-mastered edition has been beautifully restored from the original 35mm negative, and then scanned in 2K resolution in its original 1.66:1 ratio. Dirt, scratches and debris were carefully removed frame by frame and damaged frames were repaired.
A modern great
Whether you prefer the original, shorter 124-minute theatrical version released in 1988 or the considerably longer 174-minute director’s cut released later (critics are divided), you can’t help but appreciate why Cinema Paradiso won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film in 1990, as well as picking up five BAFTAs and the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.
Sure, there are no car chases, shootouts, special effects, CGI or Hans Zimmer soundtracks here. This is cinema from a gentler, more innocent age (I love the scene where the local priest sits alone in the cinema, ringing a small bell at every scene he wants cut out of a film before it’s shown to the public). But if you haven’t already seen Cinema Paradiso, make sure you do. It’s a classic in every sense of the word.
Andy Clough is editor-in-chief of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision magazine
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