Cinema Paradiso

Image: (Wikipedia): “Die Feuerzangenbowle (The Fire-Tongs Bowl or The Punch Bowl) is a 1944 German film, directed by Helmut Weiss and based on the book of the same name. Since the 1980s, the film has gained cult film status at many German universities. During party-like showings in university auditoriums in early December, students bring props to participate in the movie’s action similar to audience participation in showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For example, the audience will ring alarm clocks whenever an alarm clock rings in the movie and use flashlights when Hans Pfeiffer uses a pocket mirror to pinpoint the location of the Goths on a map behind the teacher to help a fellow student in history class. In 2006, more than 10,000 students participated in this tradition in Göttingen alone.”

On 11/10/2014, Alex Simon interviewed the director Giuseppe Tornatore for Huffpost:

“…Let’s start at the beginning: how was Cinema Paradiso born?

It’s a very long story to tell in an interview, so I’ll try to keep it simple. I got the initial idea in autumn of 1977. I was involved with the movie theaters in my village as a projectionist. That autumn, they closed one of the oldest theaters that dated back to the early 1930s. The owner decided to sell the building and they had to clear out all the furniture, and basically clean out and strip the building. He asked me to take anything I wanted. So I spent three or four days there, helping to clean it out…it was so dirty, so musty, the smell, the whole atmosphere was just so sad. It just came to me to take this atmosphere and put it into a story. For the next ten years, I made notes as ideas came to me. I interviewed many of the old projectionists in town for their stories, then I wrote the script. I always thought it was something I’d make after I made a name for myself, maybe as my fifth or sixth movie. After I finished my first film, my producer said to me “Don’t you have a passion project? Something you’re dying to make?” And I told him the entire story of Cinema Paradiso, right there. He was so touched that I decided to make it as my second movie.

Do you view the two versions as separate films or the same film?

That’s a tough one to answer. I love both, obviously, but I prefer the evolution of the plot in the longer version. I love at the end of the story that the character of Alfredo has this surprising dark side, that he is not so bright as he is in the shorter version. I also like the dichotomy in Salvatore’s life that he has huge professional success but no success in his personal life.

Tell us about working with the great Ennio Morricone.

That was one of the great miracles of my professional life. Ennio is not only a great musician, but has one of the easiest personalities. He works with you not like a temperamental artist, but like a carpenter…

Tell us about the casting of legendary French actor Philippe Noiret as Alfredo.

…We asked him, as a favor, just to read the script, which he agreed to. Two days later, he called back, said he was in love with it, and if we could free him from one of these four contracts, he would be able to make the film. And he said “I will play any character in this movie you want, even the child.” (laughs) So that’s how we got Philippe and he was just a joy.

The late Roger Ebert wrote on his website on March 16, 1990:

“There is a village priest in “Cinema Paradiso” who is the local cinema’s most faithful client. He turns up every week like clockwork, to censor the films. As the old projectionist shows the movies to his audience of one, the priest sits with his hand poised over a bell, the kind that altar boys use. At every sign of carnal excess – which to the priest means a kiss – the bell rings, the movie stops and the projectionist snips the offending footage out of the film. Up in the projection booth, tossed in a corner, the lifeless strips of celluloid pile up into an anthology of osculation, an anthology that no one will ever see, not in this village, anyway…

Tornatore’s movie is a reminder of the scenes in Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” where the young boy steals a poster of “Citizen Kane.” We understand that the power of the screen can compensate for a deprived life and that young Salvatore is not apprenticing himself to a projectionist, but to the movies…

…there is one scene where the projectionist finds that he can reflect the movie out of the window in his booth and out across the town square so that the images can float on a wall, there in the night above the heads of the people. I saw a similar thing happen one night in Venice in 1972 when they showed Chaplin’s “City Lights” in the Piazza San Marco to more than 10,000 people…”

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