The warm feeling you get from the first taste of your grandmother’s tomato soup. That is the only experience equivalent to Giuseppe Tornatore’s classical Sicilian-based film, Cinema Paradiso – released in 1988.
This tender story revolves around the life of Totò (Salvatore Cascio), a young Sicilian boy with a curiosity for the world of film. It often comes as a shock to viewers that his companion and mentor throughout the tale is a lonely, older man named Alfredo (Philippe Noiret). Alfredo works as a projectionist at the central location of the movie, Cinema Paradiso, an old-school theatre in which films are reviewed by the community’s priest. The theatre may not be much, but the nostalgic ambience it gives off is almost as comforting as the film itself.
The story of Cinema Paradiso is told in such a unique manner, that one must see it to truly experience it. Tornatore chose to open the film with a grown Totò, who now goes by Salvatore (Jacques Perrin). Introducing his adult self as a renowned film director, Salvatore is graced with flashbacks of his childhood when uncovering life-changing news about Alfredo.
Much like watching someone’s life unfold, the story is told in different sections of Alfredo’s experiences. At first, he is a young child with a strong curiosity and willingness to learn about the restricted film reels. He is then seen transitioning into his teenage years, played by Marco Leonardi, facing the trials and tribulations of adolescent life, all while continuing to learn about the realm of film studies. While still painting the imagery of a magical childhood, elements of adulthood and growth are shown in this stage of Totò’s journey.