Monday, March 16, 2009

World Movie Series - 4 - Cinema Paradiso

There is a phase in everyone’s life which we can never forget. We sometimes yearn for this phase and hope that we get those years again to relive the happy moments for a second time. Every time we think about those years, it brings a smile on our face, and we become nostalgic. The golden years of our childhood and teenage. These memories never get erased from our mind and they keep on flashing time after time in our mind as and when we reminiscent over the happenings of the past. Just imagine what will happen if those memories are rekindled by an incident which takes us directly to those years.

Cinema Paradiso is one such journey in to the aromatic years of the past, by an individual.

Salvatore Di Vita is a critically acclaimed, successful film director, living in Rome. The movie begins with his mother, living in their hometown, Giancaldo in Sicily, trying to call Salvatore over the phone. She wants to convey him a message, but since Salvatore is not at home, she delivers the message to a lady friend of Salvatore. After talking, her daughter – Salvatore’s younger sister tells her mom that since Salvatore has not been home for the past 30 years, he will not come this time also. The mother looks at her daughter intently, and tells she knows Salvatore better than her daughter and he will surely come this time.

We cut to Salvatore, in Rome, arriving home, late at night. The lady tells Salvatore that his mom called. She tells that her mom wants Salvatore to come to Sicily so that she can be with her son for a while. Salvatore enquires the lady about did his mom call just to tell about this, and the lady replies that his mom also conveyed a message to Salvatore. Alfredo has died, and his funeral will happen the next evening. Hearing this, Salvatore lies down in bed, and as we see a tight close up of his face, begins a journey in to the past, recollecting his old memories.

The period is right away after the World War II. We see a church in Giancaldo, and Salvatore, a very young boy, aged 6, is assisting the father with the day to day activities. Salvatore’s nick name is Toto, and he is an extremely bright kid. His mom is a war widow. Toto dozes up during church activities, as they bore him to the core. The father keeps complaining about Toto and he asks Toto to go home and sleep, as he has an important work to do. Toto knows where the father is going, and pesters him up that he will also come. The father refuses and goes away.

It’s an old movie theatre. The only one present in Giancaldo. Before every movie is screened, the father sees it and raises alarm during the ‘objectionable’ scenes – the kissing scenes- and the operator marks them and chops them off before public screening. Today also, the father sits alone in the theatre, and the movie begins. During the kissing scenes, the father rings his bell, and the operator marks them. We see Toto peeking in from a small vent in the theatre. While Toto secretly watches, the operator catches him up.

We see Alfredo, the operator. A big man with a friendly smile. Alfredo likes Toto but is against Toto’s will to be in the theatre. So he orders Toto to go home. Toto sees all the film rolls of the chopped off kissing scenes, and asks Alfredo can he have them. Alfredo tells Toto they all are his, but then they have to remain in the theatre with Alfredo. A disgruntled Toto leaves to his home. Back home, he takes a film strip, which he took from the theatre and keeps looking at it. Next day, Toto goes to school. While returning, he again runs off to the theatre, to see the new film being screened. He buys ticket with the money his mom gave to buy milk, and after the movie, while returning, his mom catches Toto and asks about the milk. Toto says the money is stolen, and gets beaten up. Alfredo sees this, and runs to the rescue of the boy. Alfredo says he found the money under a seat, and gives it to Toto’s mom. While going home, Toto turns to Alfredo, secretly winks at him. Alfredo too winks at Toto. We get to understand the love they both have towards each other, by this beautiful scene.

The next day, the father takes Toto out on scorching sun, and Toto sees Alfredo coming that way in his cycle. While Alfredo crosses them, Toto suddenly falls to the ground, pretending that he is wriggling in pain. The father asks Alfredo to take him to town, and so, Toto gets a ride with his beloved Alfredo. The conversation they both share during the cycle ride is a touching one, which shows how far Alfredo has understood the boy, and how far the boy loves Alfredo. They both have become intimate friends by now.

One day, Alfredo sees Toto’s mom beating him up, as he has left a few film strips under the bed, near the lamp and this has burnt down the films. Toto’s young sister gets burnt a little, and this makes the mom furious. She complains that everything is because of Alfredo. Alfredo assures her that henceforth, he will keep Toto out of the theatre.

The next day, when Toto comes to the theatre, Alfredo asks him to get out. Toto becomes sad and goes out. This continues for a few days. One day, while writing the final yearly exams, we see the teacher announcing that the night class students are here too for the exams, and enters Alfredo! Toto cannot control his laughter, and since Alfredo doesn’t know the lessons, he pleads Toto secretly to show him the paper. Toto asks Alfredo to promise that he will teach him how to operate the projector in the theatre, and a reluctant Alfredo finally agrees.

From here on, the boy gets trained by Alfredo on handling the projector. He learns fast, as he is an intelligent kid. He loves being in the theatre and seeing a lot of movies, and Alfredo is very happy too, being with Toto. We get to see the golden character of Alfredo, as one day he screens the film on the street, for all the people who are not able to visit the theatre. During the screening, suddenly the projector gets heated up and the theatre ultimately catches fire. While trying to extinguish the fire, Alfredo loses his eyesight.

A local don, Ciccio, builds a new theatre, and names it as Cinema Paradiso. Since Alfredo has lost his eyesight, the boy Toto is the new operator. Alfredo comes to the theatre after a few days, since he cannot sit at home. Toto is very happy that his beloved Alfredo has recovered from the accident. We see Alfredo fondly stroking Toto’s face and while the stroke gets completed, we see a young teenaged Toto.

Toto is still the operator, and advices Ciccio to repair the original burnt down theatre, so that they can have two theatres in the town.

By now, Toto has developed his interest towards filming. He films various sequences and plays them to Alfredo and explains him about the situation. Once, while filming the railway station, Toto sees a beautiful girl, and films her. From that day, Toto falls madly in love with the girl, and after a few tries, is able to gain the girl’s love. He tells everything to Alfredo. Alfredo is happy that he has found a love.

The girl’s father doesn’t like the love, and plans to move to some other city. Toto also gets a call from the army, as it is mandatory for everyone to attend the military training. During the final day, the girl tells that she will be there in the theatre to meet him, and Toto waits for her. She doesn’t turn up. So Toto asks Alfredo to take charge of the projection and he rushes to the girl’s house but he finds no one. He comes back to the theatre and enquires Alfredo about anyone coming to see him and Alfredo tells no one came. Toto realizes that the girl has left the town.

Alfredo takes Toto to the sea and advices him to forget everything and to start a new life. He asks Toto to leave the town, and to never return back, as it will give him bad memories. Alfredo convinces Toto to go out of town for a new career. Toto finally decides to leave to Rome. Alfredo advices Toto in the railway station that he must never come back, come what may the situation.

The train slowly starts, and Toto waves to everyone. The train catches full speed, and the next shot, we see a plane landing. The past and the present are beautifully linked through this scene, as we see now the acclaimed director Salvatore Di Vita, coming out from the plane. Salvatore visits his home after 30 years, and he goes to the funeral, meets everyone, and becomes nostalgic.

He sees a young girl, who exactly resembles his lost love. He tracks her and finds out that she is the daughter of Elena, his love interest in the past. He stands opposite Elena’s home and phones her. She tells him there is nothing to renew in their relationship, and she cuts the call.

A distressed Salvatore goes to the seashore. While he is standing there, he hears a car pulling up. It’s Elena. She asks him to get in, and says she wants to talk to him. She tells him how heartbroken she was during the final day when she promised him that she will meet him. She says she came to the theatre a bit late, and she found Alfredo there. She explained the situation to Alfredo, and Alfredo advised her to forget Toto, as they are not going to be united at all, since Toto is leaving to the army and she is leaving to the next town. Alfredo tells Elena that he will tell everything to Toto and asks her to go with her parents.

Elena scribbles everything in a piece of paper, when Alfredo thinks she‘s gone. She pins up the paper in the wall, with her future address, among the movie bills, for Toto to come to her. She leaves the town.

Hearing this, Salvatore becomes emotional. She tells him that there is nothing to worry about, as their fate has taken them on two different roads. She says she is happy to meet him now, after 30 years. They make love in the car.

Salvatore runs to the old theatre. He goes to the devastated projection room, and searches the paper and finds it. He realizes that Alfredo did everything for his goodness sake, since if he had married the girl, he would have stayed in the town, and he would not have made it as a director. His love for Alfredo becomes even more intense.

Before leaving the town, he wants to meet Elena again, but she tells that during their teenage, they never did what they did the previous night, and that forms the perfect end to the story. So she bids him adieu in the phone and says she will not meet him again. Alfredo’s wife gives Salvatore a parcel which Alfredo wanted to give to his beloved Toto. Salvatore starts to Rome.

It was a film reel, and back home, Salvatore goes to his projection theatre, asks the operator to play the reel and sits up in silence, all alone. The film begins. It’s the collection of all those chopped off kissing scenes which the little boy Toto wanted to have. Salvatore watches all the kisses being played on the screen, with tears flowing down his eyes. He cannot hide his love towards his beloved friend Alfredo, and cries, with his heart full of emotions towards his dead friend.

The film ends with this scene.

Cinema Paradiso is an emotional journey in to the life of Salvatore Di Vita. The entire movie is a collection of all his childhood memoirs. It has been excellently filmed, and while watching, we too start loving Alfredo, the operator, along with Toto. The scenes where Alfredo talks with Toto are just beautiful. The entire movie is nearly three hours long, but not even for a single minute, I was getting bored. Instead, I was highly engrossed all through the movie, and can very well say this is one of my all time great favorites.

The theatre plays a vital role all through the film. It is in this theatre that Toto learns everything. Finally, the theatre gets demolished, since there is no one to see old movies and since the city needs a parking lot. This is a powerful scene, as we see tears in Salvatore as well as many people’s eyes. The theatre means a lot for them, and when it is destroyed, they all react as if someone close to their heart passes away.

The direction is by Guiseppe Tornatore (Malena, Star maker). This Italian film was released in the year 1989 and won the Oscars for the best foreign film in 1990. Another highlight of the movie is the brilliant, touching music by Ennio Morricone. Morricone is the dada of Hollywood music, having immortal movies like Good, bad and the ugly, For a few dollars more, A fist full of dollars, Once upon a time in the west, The untouchables, The Battle of Algiers etc.. to his credit. He has scored for over a hundred films in his career, and is easily the best of all the Hollywood music directors and composers. He has scored an excellent background music, which just entwines the heart.

Cinema Paradiso will stand to be a great film, which portrays the beautiful relationship between a boy and an old man. Salutes to Guiseppe Tornatore and Ennio Morricone for making a gem of a movie!

PS:- A few scenes were copied from this film in to a Tamil movie called ‘Veyil’. All the scenes involving Pasupathi in the cinema theatre were copied from this film.

See the trailer here.


Shree said...

A really neat film Jesh... hope we would have a story like this in our lives too... Keep your dream alive and aflame. You have heights to reach... All d best da :)

The S c o r p said...

Thanx ma. I too sincerely hope it becomes real. I'm sure it will, as long as I have you with me... :-*

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