Best Movie of All Time: Cinema Paradiso

CP-202x300I was recently reminded about the wonderful musical score of Cinema Paradiso, what I believe is the best movie of all time. I had written about this movie in a Struming 5 years ago, and thought it was time to reprise my thoughts as the movie celebrates its 30th anniversary from its original release in 1988.

Cinema Paradiso is my favorite movie. I realize that seems like a strange selection since those who know me would not call me an “artsy” guy. And while I also realize that selecting a best movie ever is very subjective, I did not choose this as best ever to make me seem like a cinematic snob. (AnchormanThe Waterboy and Step Brothers would also be in my top 10, so that brings my cinematic taste down to earth quickly)

But a foreign film with subtitles–Best ever? Huh?

Yes. Absolutely. And I suspect that some Strumings readers who’ve seen this movie might agree.

The movie did win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1989, and was modestly successful in the box office. Interestingly there are several versions of the film, primarily the roughly 2-hour version which most viewers know, the 2-1/2 hour version which was originally released in Italy with poor results, and the roughly 3-hour director’s cut, which fans know reveals the story of the main character, Salvatore (aka Toto), finding his lost love again and understanding why they never connected 30 years earlier.

What is it about this movie that sticks with me?

Set in a small Sicilian village, it is a story of the life of a boy, Salvatore, and his fascination with cinema, and his relationship with an older man, Alfredo, who was the projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso.  The film looks at the life of Salvatore as a young child, teen and later as a famous, older, but unhappy film director, who ultimately returns 30 years later to his village to attend the funeral of Alfredo, who earlier in life told Salvatore to never return to the village. In so doing he gains a better understanding of himself, and reminisces about his one true love, Elena, wondering what became of her.

Beyond the power of the story, with an ending that will touch your heart, the instrumental music composed by Ennio Morricone and his son, Andrea, is so well done, yet understated, that it enhances the film’s emotional impact. Cinema Paradiso is thought provoking and anyone, at any age, can identify with a sweet story and the life implications of the decisions each of us make along the way. As I age the power of the movie increases.

I hope that that the film will be released in theaters again occasionally. Home viewing is fine, but the nature of a movie about movies deserves the full experience. I would enjoy seeing it again on the big screen where Cinema Paradiso comes to life like no other.

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