Film Review: IMDbinge - Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Film Review: IMDbinge - Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Catherine's 2016 Challenge - watch all 250 of IMDb's top rated films. This lunchtime, she reviews Cinema Paradiso, Italian classic and currently no. 56 on the list.

Guiseppe Tornatore’s 1988 classic, and the Oscar’s 1989 Best Foreign Language Film, is an accessible look at the life of a young boy, Toto, who falls in love with cinema (and in the meantime a young woman as well) and forms a strong friendship with his local cinema’s projectionist, Alfredo, after the father he has forgotten fails to return from war.

The film was nominated for a slew of international awards and is now considered one of the most iconic films about cinema ever made. This quaint story of a boy’s love of cinema in a small town where the world of filmmaking seems like a distant dream is one that many young filmmakers and dreamers alike can identify with. However, this story is even more poignant as it takes place in the time of film cameras, before digital storytelling became a benchmark and in a time when the accessibility of filmmaking tools was much narrower. Toto himself only manages to buy himself a movie camera after what appears to be years of saving and a lust for movies that never dies. 

One of the things I really like about this film is how authentically Italian it seems. I would in no sense consider myself an expert on what is or isn’t authentically Italian but it certainly didn’t feel in any way clunky or dated. In a lot of Hollywood movies from the 80s I am find myself distracted by the cling-clang music that was so in vogue at the time, and frankly it makes my ears bleed. Cinema Paradiso, on the other hand, is so unashamedly classic in its approach that it stands the test of time. It has no problem being sentimental or portraying its main character, Toto, as having his head in the clouds, especially since he does the old cliché of falling in love with the new girl in town simply because she is beautiful and basically stalks her until she gives in... but somehow, it still works. His innocence wins us over. 

Toto’s lust for life and boyish shenanigans remind us what it was like to be young and have dreams of being something more than we were born to be – something that may have seemed almost impossible at the time. It is, essentially, a beautiful rags-to-riches story. Alfredo, as Toto’s mentor and substitute father figure, shows us how valuable it is to have someone pushing you to be everything you can be and not to get side-tracked by life in the pursuit of your dreams. Those of us who had Alfredos were the lucky ones – others have to be their own Alfredos.

Cinema Paradiso is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Words: Catherine Bridgman 

poetry: dear mr osborne

poetry: dear mr osborne

Short Story: The (Great) Master

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