November 15, 2012 Film Reviews

Some gifts have the power of stirring our deepest, most dormant memories by simultaneously conjuring the ghostly legacies of others.

In writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1989), Salvatore ‘Toto’ de Vita, a prominent Rome-based filmmaker, returns to his Sicilian hometown of Giancaldo after receiving news of the death of Alfredo, the projectionist of its eponymous cinema and his former childhood mentor. Arriving after a thirty-year absence, Salvatore encounters a landscape that has changed as much by the vicissitudes of time and technology as by the facility (and fallibility) of his own memory.

After attending Alfredo’s funeral in the company of the townsfolk of his childhood, Salvatore reunites with his grieving widow who presents him with a package: a steel canister containing a reel of 35 mm film prepared by her deceased husband. Returning to Rome, Salvatore screens the footage in a studio theatre and encounters the sensuous (and censored) fragments of motion pictures that coloured and shaped his childhood.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, Tornatore’s nostalgic, post-war drama is a tender love story and a triumphant love letter to cinema. And more than twenty years on, it maintains its poignancy, relevance and stature as a masterpiece of story telling.

– Dr. Varga Hosseini