Every one of us has a favourite dish at home. It is utter joy when your mother makes it, and although you know that there are thousands of restaurants out there which serve the same dish with better taste and finesse, you still proclaim it in an unabated manner that no one can make it better than her. Logically, you are lying but emotionally, you are not. For it has that one intangible ingredient which at the end of the day seems to make all the difference – love.
I believe it is the same element which has resulted in Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso to carve out a niche for itself in cinematic history. It is that rare work of art which is an appreciation of the art itself. The tale is of Salvatore, a film-maker who reminisces about his upbringing in a small town in Sicily, where he forged his love for cinema through Alfredo, the projectionist of the cinema hall of the town.
Although centered around cinema, it works as Fellini’s Amarcot does, for it seems more concerned with examining the lives of the people centered around the main action rather than the action itself. With this Tornatore ushers in a wide variety of characters whose entire courses of life can be summarized within their cinema-going experiences. From first glances to romances to sexual encounters, Cinema Paradiso which is the cinema hall in question holds the memories of the lives of an entire generation within its walls.
There is a scene where Alfredo projects The Firemen of Viggiu on the walls of a nearby house. As the projection moves from the walls of the projection room to the hearts of cinema lovers, I reckon every true cinephile shed tears, being reminded of why they fell in love with this art form in the first place.
Cinema Paradiso is melodramatic at some places and at times, seems to usher in forced emotions with lagging scenes. But for all its heart, it stands out as an imperfect masterpiece. It maybe because Tornatore made this work with the complete realization that a 155 minute movie about the love of movies would be an exercise in futility. Instead he makes it about the only thing every cinephile world over loves more than cinema, and what every work of cinema is a celebration of -Life Itself.