Salvatore's mentor, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), has died. Salvatore hasn't been home for 30 years. Before returning for the funeral, he reminisces about his life and the effect Alfredo has had on it. He also remembers the only woman he ever loved, Elena (Brigitte Fossey).

Cinema Paradiso is a wonderful film, completely faultless. Direction: perfect. Acting: perfect. Script, cinematography, editing, musical score: perfect. All the awards that it won - Cannes Grand Jury Prize, foreign language Oscar, five Baftas, and countless others - were richly deserved. Any that it didn't win must have been a fix. Cinema Paradiso is perfect...

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Special mention must be made for Salvatore Cascio, who plays the boyhood Salvatore. His performance is an absolute treasure to watch. His love for cinema is infectious, his nascent friendship with Alfredo is uplifting. He's sweet, he's funny, he's just plain lovely.

It's always fascinating to compare theatrical releases with directors' cuts, and perhaps none more so than Cinema Paradiso. Most of the omissions from the theatrical release are minor scenes with a slight sexual content. The primary difference between the two versions is a 45-minute extension that slots in right before the close. Salvatore and Elena's relationship has many of its loose ends tied up and a few more created.

The theatrical version is a film that thrives on its loose ends. The passionate longing, the absence, the unknowing, all make it the popular and moving film it is. The director's cut changes those feelings, but manages to retain most of the emotions that it created, whilst adequately replacing the rest. It's certainly not change for the better, but I'd not call it change for the worse, either. It's just change.

If you are new to Giuseppe Tornatore's masterpiece, I would suggest seeing the theatrical version first, simply because it allows you to view both versions freshly and to judge for yourself.

Whichever Cinema Paradiso you watch, the long or the short, it's a magical and emotional example of filmmaking at its finest.

Reviewed on: 18 May 2003
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A story of love of the cinema and love of a woman.
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Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

Writer: Giuseppe Tornatore

Starring: Philippe Noiret, Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, Jacques Perrin

Year: 1988

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy/France

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