I have never seen a movie as honest and powerful in its emotions as Cinema Paradiso!
The story is so simple and yet complex, that it's impossible to explain.
Cinema Paradiso tells the story of a man called Salvatore Di Vita a.k.a. Toto and his deep friendship with the city's movie hall projectionist Alfredo!
The movie is set in the post World War II era - Toto is a bright, mischievous young kid who lives with his mother and sister. He knows that his father is dead even though his mother clings on to the hope that her husband would return someday. In such a situation, Alfredo becomes a father figure for Toto as their friendship deepens with time.
Alfredo realizes that Toto is a very intelligent kid and could do greater things in his life than become a projectionist in a small town. All through Toto's developing years, Alfredo tries to encourage Toto to ensure that he does not get satisfied with a simple small town life. Alfredo's sentiment is best portrayed by the following quote he says to Toto:
"I don't want to hear you talk anymore. I want to hear talk about you..."
The movie also showcases one of the best ever portrayals of cinematic romance when Toto falls in love with a girl in his town, named Elena. Even today, the scenes will touch your heart and remind you of your first love.
The last twenty minutes of the movie are a study in how silence can sometimes be the best dialogue in a film.
The movie ends with a very moving sequence that is brilliantly enacted by Jacques Perrin, who plays the older version of Toto. But frankly speaking, the acting in the movie right through is brilliant. Phillipe Noiret as Alfredo is spectacular, while Salvatore Cascio, who plays the child version of Toto is fantastic. Marco Leonardi who plays the adolescent version of Toto and Agnese Nano who plays Elena, the girl who steals Toto's heart - do a brilliant job of establishing their special bond as lovers despite very simple sequences. Their romance is the definition of the term on-screen-chemistry.
Hats off to writer-director, Giuseppe Tornatore, who, a decade later gave us the wonderful movie - Malena. And word of praise for a perfect background score which carries the last 20 minutes of the movie by the legendary Ennio Morricone.
The movie won the Oscar in 1989 for Best Foreign Language Film, once you watch the movie, you will know why!