Cinema Pardiso: The New Version
review by Elias Savada, 14 June 2002

Francis Ford Coppola's darker-than-black epic Apocalypse Now Redux debuted last year, adding fifty-three minutes and renewed accolades to what was already a classic war film more than a decade old. Milos Forman's enchanting director's cut of Amadeus, running twenty minutes longer than its 1984 original, was released this spring to more critical acclaim. I consider it one of the most beautifully paced films I have ever seen. Martin Scorsese's ultimate rock concert The Last Waltz, louder, better, but, alas, not longer than its original 117 minutes, had a limited run last April in advance of its "special edition" DVD release a month later. Steven Spielberg caught the revisionist bug by rewriting, re-digitizing, and re-filming parts of his twenty-year-old family classic E.T. The Extraterrestrial, released in March. Disney's Beauty and the Beast, celebrated a slightly belated ten-year anniversary as a multi-story IMAX presentation sporting a new six-minute sequence when it opened last New Year's Day. And let's not forget John Sayles' directorial debut Return of the Secaucus 7, opening for limited runs in New York and Los Angeles on April 12th, apparently the only one in the lot left untouched. According to the Motion Picture Association of America there were twenty films reissued in 2001.

Giuseppe Tornatore's 155-minute Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, released in Italy on November 17, 1988, was compressed to merely Cinema Paradiso and truncated by more than thirty minutes when American audiences applauded and critics lauded it over a year later. It won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, several other international prizes, and made tons of Ten Best lists. Cinema Paradiso was the second of four consecutive Best Foreign Film Oscars that would be collected by Miramax between 1988 and 1991 (the others being Pelle the Conqueror, Journey of Hope, and Mediterraneo). It grossed nearly $12 million in this country, making a small but respectable profit for distributor Miramax as the highest-grossing foreign-language film of 1990.

Miramax's press material rightfully calls its current release Cinema Paradiso: The New Version. Not only is it Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (the original edition briefly released in Italy), but molto nuovo, a nearly three-hour extravagance, clocking in some fifty-one minutes longer than what most of the world has seen to date, the 123-minute international condensation. Thoroughly enjoyable in its own right, director-writer Tornatore has expanded his cinematic love letter, basically refashioning his film into a distinctly more mellow piece. What we remember fondly as an affectionate, sweet tale of a boy and his projectionist (Philippe Noiret), then of a teenager and his projectionist, has added back in what is basically the last third of the film, a man and his memories of a projectionist. This portion features the adult Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) in a gloomy role, returning to Giancaldo, his Sicilian home, a prodigal son after thirty years upon learning of his long-time acquaintance's death. While the final ending remains, in which a collated reel of parochially expunged kisses flicker on screen as an affectionate bequest by Alfredo to a white-haired Salvatore, now a renown film director, the hour leading up to this tear-filled finale is (still) best left on the cutting room floor. The innocence is gone.

While the director might consider this a more provocative feature (pushing its PG rating to an R), it also has become much more morose—a huge let down from the formerly tender period piece about friendship and, later, a teenager's timid coming-of-age adventures in love and sex that were the bulk of the film's two-hour version. Tornatore's decision to bring the film full circle finds the fully-grown Salvatore in a position not unlike that of Tom Hanks' Chuck Noland in Cast Away. Pine all you want for "the girl that got away," but by the time you are reunited, it may be too late. Brigitte Fossey as the matured and married Elena (her younger self played by Agnese Nano, the teenager Salvatore's fancy, who reappears in part three as the daughter of Elena), was totally clipped from the general release version of twelve years ago. She's back in for a quick tryst in a car by the beach, but their love can never be. Yes questions are answered, ones that Tornatore felt needed resolution, but it depreciates what has been a wonderful experience for us.

The opening hour, at least, remains an adorable romp for the ten-year-old Salvatore Cascio as Toto, a precocious lad that stole our hearts and filled us with laughter. His is one of the greatest child performances of all time. To Tornatore's merit, no other film has captured the film-going experience with such affection and warmth, and the director-writer deserved every single kudo. His ode to life in a remote Italian village in the 1940s and 1950s, wherein the movie theater is the town's cultural and social center is priceless entertainment. It is one of cinema's finest hours. But the Paradiso's rusted-out ruin and ultimate collapse during the film's final third, and Perrin's weak performance, emotionally belittle a cinema classic. Sometimes shorter is better.

Written and
Directed by:

Giuseppe Tornatore

Philippe Noiret
Jacques Perrin
Salvatore Cascio
Antonella Attili
Enzo Cannavale
Isa Danieli
Leo Gullota
Marco Leonardi
Pupella Maggio
Agnese Nano
Leopoldo Trieste

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be in appropriate
for children under 13.





  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.