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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cinema Paradiso. Original vs New Version

**Mild spoiler warning for both versions of Cinema Paradiso**

Was watching the director's cut version of Cinema Paradiso (called the 'New Version') on DVD with my dad a few nights ago. Now already regarded as a classic, I've definitely heard of this 1988 Italian film (made in 1988, released internationally in 1990... I think) for a really long time, but never really had the opportunity to find either the chance, or the mood to watch it even though my dad has the DVD of the original for years.

Dad managed to borrow the Cinema Paradiso: New Version DVD from his friend, which he hadn't seen, so we watched it together. Father and son watching a nice coming-of-age story of a boy and his friendship with a father figure, awesome.

To the uninitiated, film's about a famous film director who returns home to a Sicilian village for the first time after almost 30 years to attend a funeral of Alfredo, an old friend. He reminisces about his childhood at the Cinema Paradiso where Alfredo, the projectionist, first brought about his love of films. He is also reminded of his lost teenage love, Elena, whom he had to leave before he left for Rome.

This film is a MUST-WATCH!

Ahhh... I think it's a beautiful film that reminds me why I love films at the first place. If you actually love films, I think you'll love this even more. There are moments in the film that just feel... magical. And man, the score by Ennio Morricone, I've heard it so many times in awards presentations and the likes (and most recently, in movie The Holiday, the Jack Black character made numerous Morricone references) but I never knew that it's actually from this film!

Released in 2002, the director's cut is actually nearly an hour longer than the original. Director Giuseppe Tornatore gives us more extra stuff than Peter Jackson did with the extended versions of those Lord of the Rings films.

In the original version, Elena remains a lasting memory for Salvatore (Toto), the protagonist, but in the 'New Version', he actually meets up with Elena again, both of them already middle-aged, and she's married to an old friend of his. Turns out that all those years ago, Alfredo reluctantly manipulated Elena into leaving Toto just so Toto can follow his dreams and become a film director*.

I feel that the new revelations from the Elena subplot in the director's cut sort of diminish the Alfredo/ Toto friendship. And the structure in the third act just becomes a bit awkward and weird. Some like this new version more because the film becomes more complex, the relationship between Elena and Toto more tragic and less mysterious, there is an added layer to the film. Alfredo's 'betrayal' makes Alfredo more selfless because he doesn't want Toto to make an impossible choice, yet, a betrayal is still a betrayal! Somehow, when the famous 'kissing montage' ending came, I was really more numb than really affected.

After the film ended, dad, feeling slightly disappointed by this version too, popped the old DVD of the original version into the player just so we can make our comparisons. We fastforwarded to the last act of the film. (you didn't really think that we would have a 5+ hour Cinema Paradiso marathon, did you?)

I think I like the more fable-like, mythical feel of the original. More simple and innocent. Maybe being a romantic at heart, I would rather that Elena remains just a lasting memory. It's mostly because I embrace open-endedness just so I can fill in my own blanks. With her subplot being so open-ended, I'm allowed to believe and imagine that someday, Toto (who remained single all his life, drifting from one loveless relationship to another) would finally find Elena under different, and happier circumstances. Sigh...

The feeling I got from the new version? It's as if GONE WITH THE WIND has an extended ending with Scarlett finding Rhett again only to find out that he's already married to some random woman and has a few kids of his own**. But of course, the idea of GWTW being longer than its original 4 hours is already scary enough.

Still a really good movie, but definitely not as good as the original, to me.

Anyone else with any thoughts?

Gotta add a video of the ending. Powerful stuff.

The famous 'Kissing Montage' ending in Cinema Paradiso

* Er, hits a bit too close to home for me...

** I'm disregarding of the existence of Alexandra Ripley's SCARLETT, the 1991 authorized sequel of GONE WITH THE WIND.


  1. y the guy in the video looked so shocked & confused?

    the song in the video is so nice & the kissings.. fuyooo..

  2. Salvatore (guy in the video) inherited the film reel that Alfredo left for him. Turned out that the reel was made up out of film clips from every film Alfredo has projected in the theater many many years ago. (Alfredo, as a projectionist, had to cut out the romantic scenes from movies to please the local censor back then)

    Salvatore probably cried because of all those memories he had with Alfredo, more than thirty years ago.

    (the little boy at the top pic is the Salvatore when young)

  3. yeah, the old shorter one's definitely much better!

    still, it's an amazingly good movie.

    You might like Les Choriste too if you like this.

  4. Yeah, I (or rather, my dad) think I might have the DVD. Seemed like a Dead Poets Society/ Goodbye Mr Chips/ Mr Holland's Opus-type film, except in French.

  5. Wow, The Chorus' user ratings at IMDB is 7.8. Must be a damned good film then.

  6. Bloody hell, I just watched Cinema Paradiso yesterday coz we were forced to for class.

    For whatever reason, the famous ending never did touch me, not even the first time i saw it.

  7. Me neither, but I blamed the Elena subplot for lessening the impact of the ending. Not sure, maybe I would be more moved if I initially saw the original version.

  8. Hmmm, this post just reminds me of how much I used to love films when I was younger, and how much I dislike most of the Hollywood non-sense that passes for movies these days.

    I'm glad there are still foreign countries making films that can turn out gems like this [even though it is, as you point out, from 1988].

    Even the Hollywood movies I do like seem to be more fluff than substance. [For instance, I like the Pirates of the Carribean movies, though they are hardly cinema classics].

  9. How often do I feel motivated to go to the cinema? Maybe like once a year?

    For people currently working, I like about three directors (Iwai, Wong, Miike). I will watch shit by them and ignore most everything else. To get a movie made you have to have financial backing and so you need to make a ridiculous amount of compromises to satisfy producers, financiers, etc. Hollywood, I just ignore it.

    I was actually going to do a feature for this blog called 'Movies That Don't Suck', in which I'd talk about movies I can stand to watch more than ten times and why I like them, but I don't think I have the motivation to really follow it through.

  10. I don't know, I don't think the amount of quality films being churned out is getting lesser, maybe it's more likely that we are getting exposed to more films (and that it's easier to acquire these films) that we start having higher standards.

    I mean, it's not as if Asian or European cinemas are releasing any less shitty films than Hollywood, just that we get to see shitty Hollywood films more due to wider international distribution, thus easier to diss Hollywood.

    Saw a quite a number of good stuff recently, just that they happened not to be showing in Malaysian cinemas. Hah.