If you’re visiting this blog, then no doubt you’re not just a fan of film music but film as well. If so, then arguably no other film captures our love affair with the movies more poignantly than CINEMA PARADISO. The story of the long-running relationship between young Toto (played by Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, and Jacques Perrin in the various stages of his life) and his friend and mentor Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the projectionist in the local movie house of a small Italian town, is a beautiful examination of life, love, community, family, and friendship. The emotions run even higher thanks to Ennio Morricone‘s heartbreaking score.
Morricone’s score is awash with one lovely melody after another, including the main theme written by the composer’s son, Andrea. In a film filled with memorable moments enhanced by Morricone’s melodic gifts (both of them!), no moment captures the essence of the film than the finale. Visiting his hometown after 30 years, the elder Toto, now a successful filmmaker, sits down in an empty screening room to watch a reel left by Alfredo. As Morricone’s music soars, images of Hollywood and international film stars locked in embraces flash by in a montage of kisses that had been excised by the local priest.
An hour of the film (basically the entire third act) was cut for impatient U.S. audiences who hate to read subtitles. Though it still plays well enough in the shortened version, the original 3-hour version is a far more satisfying experience. Unfortunately, for U.S. customers that version is only available on the now out-of-print DVD box set. For some reason, the new Blu-ray only includes the short version. The UK Blu-ray (and perhaps some other countries), however, has both. Whichever version you watch, CINEMA PARADISO is one of the true treasures of Italian cinema. A simple—and simply lovely—story, graced by one of Morricone’s finest scores.