Of the countless times that the Oscars have had a segment for montages (excluding the “In Memorium” ones), there was one they did that I wish they would bring back.
At the 62nd Academy Awards (the first to be hosted by Billy Crystal), there was a surprise appearance by an even bigger Hollywood legend, Bob Hope, there to introduce a short video of cinema’s best sharing the first time they ever went to a movie. It was proper that the video used the music from the night’s eventual winner of Best Foreign Language Film, Cinema Paradiso, which brought to mind many movie “firsts” for me (first in a theater, first date movie, etc).
The Italian film is possibly the best non-musical film ever made about the magic of movies. It tells the story of a reknown filmmaker, named Salvatore, who recalls his time growing up in a small Italian town in the 1940s. His father at war, he is left with his mother and little sister. His only true form of joy comes from the local cinema, becoming so fascinated not only by the films, but the projection room. He eventually fines his way to learn the ropes of it all under the direction of the projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret).
You know a movie is great when you are able to overlook the fact that you don’t always understand the social economic backgrounds of the film. One example of this is when we see a high class man in the balcony spitting on those below him for being too rowdy. There is also a crazy man in the town who reminds all around him that the town square is his, and no one else’s.
We (at least as American audiences) are not as concerned with that as we all with the story of how “Toto” (as he is called) recalls his childhood, seeing the countless stars of the Golden Age of Cinema (not just of Hollywood).
When the film was originally released, it ran at just about two and a half hours, but then was given a director’s cut that put it just under three hours. The longer version spends more time with the romance that Salvatore has as a teenager with Elena (Agnese Nano). The last recut of the film lasted about just over two hours. I bring this up because although the romance is indeed magical (including a kiss in the rain that is better than anything Spider-Man did), yet that is not the key relationship in the film. That relationship is the friend/mentorship between Salvatore and Alfredo.
Their relationship blossoms as one that started that neither one (especially Alfredo) asked for. They are able to goof around at times, yet still offer help (the way Alfredo helps give Salvatore time to talk to Elena in the church is nothing short of hysterical) and advice. For those who have seen the 90s show Boy Meets World, Alfredo was the Mr. Feeney to Salvatore’s Corey.
The other “relationship”, of course, is that of Salvatore and cinema, which (as you would not be surpised to know) is something I relate to strongly. While relations with others on earth may come and go, movies bring back nostalgia (which, ironically, is something Alfredo teaches Salvatore not to give in to). In that sense, relationships with movies are able to withstand the test of time. The same can be said with our relationship with God (far and away better than relationships we can make with anything else, movies included).
Parents, the movie is R mainly for sexual material. The longer versions of the film indeed do have more scenes of this nature, while the shortest version does show nudity from old films but they are so brief that it is easy to miss if you blink. Still, High School and above.
The two previously mentioned relationships culminate at the end, with one of the most extremely heart warming film endings ever done, exemplified even more so with that uncanny score by the late great Ennio Morricone (alone with his son). It isn’t every day a movie can bring tears to your eyes without much reason other than everything that is happening on the screen.
Molto Bello, indeed.