The Movies of Cinema Paradiso


Reading that Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore’s new film Baaria opened this year’s Venice Film Festival — and wishing I were there! — sent me to my DVD shelf. I reached for Tornatore’s Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso in the Italian release) and popped it into the player.

This is a movie that improves every time I watch it. It’s a bittersweet tale of an irrepressible little boy Salvatore, nick-named Totò, in post-war Sicily who finds both father figure, and his future, at the local movie house Cinema Paradiso.

An important element, and one that’s really fun to watch, are the dozens of clips of movies we see — through Salvatore’s perspective – that are showing through the years at Cinema Paradiso. Some of the movies I recognize. Others are unknown to me.

Curious if I could find a roster of all these films that appear in the movie, I started searching the Web. Finally, on Italian Wikipedia, there they were.

I like the variety in Tornatore’s choices for the Paradiso. He’s not a film snob. In a movie that’s really a love letter to the cinema, Tornatore mixes Capra’s American middlebrow It’s a Wonderful Life with Vadim’s tacky Euro-flick And God Created Woman with Visconti’s art-house La Terra Trema with Ford’s classic Hollywood Stagecoach.

From Charlie Chaplain’s City Lights to Fellini’s I Vitelloni, the clips just keep on coming. If I had to pick only one, however, for sheer entertainment value, it has to be Silvana Mangano’s crazy dance to Il Negro Zumbon in Anna. (A nun with a past!) You can catch it on YouTube.

If you love Cinema Paradiso, check out the director’s cut. It’s a much longer and very different flim. If you’ve seen both, which do you prefer and why?

Remembering Amarcord

By Walter Sanders

Maybe the greatest cinematic love letter ever filmed, Federico Fellini’s 1973 Amarcord is a special treat on Valentine’s Day.

amacordIt’s a multi-layered, lasagna-like love story-a good looking taste treat of Fellini’s remembrances of growing up in Rimini. Through the eyes of his alter-ego teen character Titta Biondi, Fellini tracks a year (from spring to spring) in pre-WW II Fascist Italy.

Amarcord, dialect for “I remember,” is about his love of youth, his love of the seasons passing, his love of women, his love of political folly, his love of the foibles of love, his love of Rimini, and his love of being in love, his love of memory and how it expands some images…and laughs at others.

The characters are lush and over the top. Zio Teo, the crazy uncle, sprung from the asylum for a family picnic, climbs a tree and howls for hours like a horny wolf “Voglio una donna!” (I want a woman.) More Amarcord