Cinema Paradiso: The New Version

Jul 24, 2002 at 12:00 am

Cinema is life. That idea has always been the heart of Cinema Paradiso (1988). But now, the film that was originally released in Italy nearly 15 years ago as Nuovo Cinema Paradiso is ... well, nuovo, new.

Memories are like the silver nitrate film clippings of our hero Toto’s (Salvatore Cascio) childhood: dangerously precious remnants of something much larger. Perhaps our recollections of the first time we saw Cinema Paradiso could serve as a kind of cinematic inkblot test revealing our underlying personality structure.

Do we remember the tales of young Toto, the little trickster totally faithful to his love of cinema? Or the tragic Romeo, adolescent Toto (Marco Leonardi, The Five Senses and Like Water for Chocolate), who plays out a poignantly rapturous and unrequited love plot that recalls those of novelist Gabriel García Márquez? Perhaps we prefer the mature Toto who has grown into his Christian name, Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin, Brotherhood of the Wolf). He’s an ironic prodigal son who returns home only after the father figure (who was his guide into the precarious and beautiful realms of film, life and love) has died. Each tale possesses a savory, Old World charm and an archetypical resonance that may reverberate into the present.

Which brings us to the new version, the director’s cut. Director Giuseppe Tornatore (Màlena) has rescued 51 minutes of footage from the cutting-room floor to create his truly Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. Some footage was just as well lost and only creates slack (an extension of the trials of Toto’s compulsory military service, for instance). But lengthy additions to the film’s final act ironically redeem its love plot.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the original movie is its last: a reel of censored screen kisses spliced into a cinematic shrine of lost innocence and love. Here Tornatore allows us to have that moment again while sweetening its taste.

Showing exclusively at the Birmingham Theatre (Old Woodward, S of Maple Rd., Birmingham). Call 248-644-3456.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].