Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Cinema Paradiso

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, March 11, 2000

Special features

Awards Listing5
Cast Information4
Production Notes5
Trailer4

One of the best Italian films of the last two decades, follows a boy’s life in a poor area of Southern Italy, as he grows up working for surrogate father-figure “Alfredo”, the proprietor of the local movie theater.

RecommendationPurchase
DirectorGuiseppe Tornatore
WriterGuiseppe Tornatore
Movie Rating8
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating7
Formats
  • Enhanced Widescreen

There isn’t a whole lot on this DVD except for the movie. It’s a great movie, and you’ll probably want it despite that. But it deserves more. In its favor, it is enhanced for widescreen.

The story begins with middle-aged Salvatore DiVita coming back to his opulent home (possibly in Rome), getting in bed with his girlfriend, and getting a message from his mother back in Italy, that some guy has died. This triggers his memories of his youth in Giancaldo, the small Italian village where he was born and raised. The adult Salvatore is played by Jacques Perrin, who has a lot of Italian television credits and looks very much like he’s in an American soap opera. Otherwise, he’s fine. However, the real brilliance in this film comes through in the Italian scenes, with the child and teen Salvatores, and the theater-owner Alfredo (Philippe Noiret).

In what must be among the boy’s earliest memories, he marvels at the cinema, and at the tricks it can play. He is also fascinated with the technology of the cinema, the pieces that make it up: discarded film stock, the projector, and, later, a home motion picture camera of his own. Young Salvatore grows up with, not the movies, but with moviemaking.

This is a story about the conflicting desires of home and ambition, and to a lesser extent about how film is a way to keep from growing up. Salvatore, we are left to understand, never outgrows his first love. He now has gray hair, and still, every time his mother calls there is a different woman answering the phone. “But I never heard in any of them that they loved you.” At some point you have to come to terms with the people of your youth or you can’t go on.

The cinematography in this movie was excellent. Every scene is a beauty to behold. Light streams in, showing as beams between people in crowds. The Italian countryside is put to good use. If you have a widescreen television set I think you’ll enjoy the panoramic views in “Cinema Paradiso”.

The listings are okay, but nothing to separate them from any other “cast and crew” listings and awards listings.

The main menu is kind of neat. It is a theater screen, with all the censored cuts from the old movies running on it. “Censored” means “kisses”: one of the funny parts of the movie is the local priest censoring “smut”, such as men and women kissing each other. Alfredo has to cut these scenes out, and theoretically has to return them to the distributor—but that’s too much work for either him or the distributor to care about.

This is a beautiful movie and it has been transferred nicel to DVD. If you have not seen “Cinema Paradiso”, you must do so as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure you’ll want to own it—and I suspect you will—then rent it, but definitely see it!

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorGuiseppe Tornatore
WriterGuiseppe Tornatore
Spoken languagesEnglish, Italian
SubtitlesEnglish, French, Italian, Spanish
Special FeaturesAwards Listing, Cast Information, Production Notes, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Cinema Paradiso…

If you enjoy Italian, you might also be interested in The Bicycle Thief and The Italian Ingredients Cookbook.