on nuovo cinema paradiso

April 3, 2010 § 1 Comment

it’s been too long.

and i’ve been pretty bad.  this is my atonement:  today i will write about “un film che brilla come un diamante.”*

*quoting myself, but uh, in italian :)  …this would be one of my favourite films, if i ever (god-forbid) had to choose.  the incredibly endearing, very sweet, very romantic:

nuovo cinema paradiso, 1988, directed by giuseppe tornatore.

cinema paradiso is a gem; for me, a movie whose existence and brilliance was so obvious for as long as i could remember (this is to me, what the sound of music or e.t. is for a lot of people), that i only recently realized that many people haven’t seen it.  it’s a funny and unabashedly sweet celebration of friendship, love, childhood, and the magic of movies.  it also features a beautiful score by the always-incredible ennio morricone.

the wikipedia summary, because i hate summarizing: “Told in flashback, it tells the story of the return to his native Sicilian village of a successful film director Salvatore (Toto) for the funeral of his old friend Alfredo, who was the projectionist at the local “Cinema Paradiso”. Ultimately, Alfredo serves as a wise father figure to his young friend who only wishes the best to see him succeed, even if it means breaking his heart in the process.”

here is a (highly-recommended) taste of this movie, featuring the theme song sung by soprano sumi jo:

one summer when i was little, maybe eight or nine years old, i went on a full tour with my aunt, who actually happens to be the singer i mentioned above.

sumi jo, coloratura soprano extraordinaire and my aunt.

she was doing a film-music based concert series in korea, and was singing a program of amazingly beautiful songs night after night while i got to watch adoringly from the first row or from backstage.  one night, the concert was at an outdoor venue, which basically means the five thousand something people in the audience sat on this immense green lawn (more like a meadow, really) facing a huge stage holding the full orchestra, lights, visuals, the whole shebang, and soprano sumi jo glittering in the middle of it all.  the stage was protected by an overhanging canopy, but the entire audience was just sitting under the stars, open to the sky.  i remember it was a beautiful night, a warm, sleepy, magical night, and the first half of the concert went by like a dream.  but after the intermission was this song, the love theme from cinema paradiso that plays in the video above.  and as the tinkling introduction began and the flutes began to peep, this soft summer rain suddenly started coming down on the audience.  i was in the audience with my father, who, as the producer of the show, was naturally on tenterhooks.  the amazing thing was, the audience was too spellbound by the song and the singer that instead of fleeing for shelter, everybody settled in and listened to the song under the rain.  as for myself, the rain, my aunt’s voice, the song, and the scenes from the film that served as visuals in the background made this an altogether extraordinary experience.

and so that is the rather long and nostalgic backstory to why i love this film so much.  even if it wasn’t as good as it absolutely, completely is, it still holds a rather soft spot in my heart just for that night.

and the music in this film really is perfection, no surprise there, seeing that the score is by the completely brilliant ennio morricone (you might know him from his work in the good, the bad and the ugly (1966) and for the mission (1986) — remember “gabriel’s oboe”?  very beautiful.)

but i have to admit, the one thing that is better than  the music of cinema is the chemistry. salvatore cascio and the late philippe noiret (who played the young toto and his mentor alfredo, respectively) were meant to be onscreen together.  the story of a fatherless boy finding a father and friend in a childless old man, and ultimately sharing his passion for cinema is winning and pure-hearted.  not to mention completely adorable to watch a tiny italian kid running circles around an old st. bernard of a man.

you know, i’ve been looking up images for this post, and i can’t help noticing how awesome all of the posters for this movie are.  seriously, each one is extremely attractive in a vintage-y way.  and really more importantly, each one, though different, manages to capture the spirit of the film.

and my own personal copy looks like this.

really, truly, i ask you to see this film not only because i guarantee you’ll definitely feel a degree more cultured having seen

nuovo cinema paradiso by giuseppe tornatore

but because it is genuinely a feel-good, fuzzy fondness kind of movie.  its simplicity, the childlike emotion with which it tells its story is sure to win you over and make you fall in love with toto and alfredo and of course, la magia del cinema.




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