Cinema Paradiso * * * * *
Directed by: Giuseppe Tornatore / 1988
If a picture can produce thousands of words then a motion picture can feed the hearts and minds of millions. The picture house in "Cinema Paradiso" feeds the citizens of Giancaldo, Sicily as they travel to other worlds and do so like a sacred temple preservation of the big screen and the images that it inhabits. Going to the movies in Giancaldo is done so with almost the same act of faith as going to church. In fact, the village priest gets first watch of each new film in order to have projectionist Alfredo censor any scene of even the slightest sensuality. Alfredo is uneducated, but the only man in town who knows how to run a projector, therefore the whole town depends on him to give them film food. He is almost a slave as he spends every waking hour in his little projection booth, “…except on Good Friday and if they hadn’t of hung Christ, that day would still be spent at the movies too.” Though, taking the love out of the pictures doesn’t take the patrons’ love out of loving movies. This is especially so in the heart of Salvatore “Toto” Di Vita, a six-year-old curious boy who is in love with the movies and Alfredo’s work, skill and father-figuring…I won’t go further as I want you to see this GEM immediately. In fact, just go buy it. It’s one of those that I wanted to buy after the first twenty minutes. This film oozes and swoons MOVIE LOVE with romantic bells and whistles. It could be the textbook definition for I LOVE MOVIES and I can’t believe I didn’t see it until this morning. If I didn’t have to go to work (darn it), I would have hit PLAY again. SEE IT IF YOU’RE A MOVIE LOVER. THIS MOVIE IS FOR US.
Now it’s time for DJG’s 10 Cent Picture Show…
I'm thankful for the home entertainment market that I grew-up with and cherish. I’m thankful for my early love harboring of movies, creativity and culture. I’m thankful that my Mom and Dad let watch everything. And I’m thankful now to have Netflix and bump great movies like “Cinema Paradiso” at the top of my queue. I’m even thankful for the over-enthusiasm that a strange man in Half Price Books the other day was getting out of trying to hold 20 or 30 VHS tapes all at once in the discount section. He, like me, feels yearn to rescue the discarded EVERYTHING, and especially at a discount…and/or to simply fill up his wagon as much as me!
Though, watching movies at home and alone is something that I love, there is something much sweeter about a group of people sharing the immediacy of a little light pouring out into a big picture. It’s actually quite magical. I feel this is something dwindling fast due to the mega-plexes, home theater set-ups, on-demand television viewings, home viewing copies that basically come when they’re still in the theater and mailed red packages along with Redboxes that can give us what we want when we want it…oh and let’s not forget piracy and the internet and movies in cars now instead of sitting in a car at the drive-in and iPods to watch things on the go and Blah Blahs to Blah with…that today’s and future’s youth will probably never experience this kind of shared going-to-the-theater culture…this type of cinema communion, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful to even be able to watch a movie at my own leisure. But, I’m exhausted just thinking about everything with technology and people now that it makes me want to time machine back to the days of “Cinema Paradiso”, heck even the early 1980s. It will definitely be interesting to see in the next four or five decades what movies come out of the change in the movie viewing market going on right now. To see what, if any, purity or sanctuary is preserved. From my vantage point, it’s even changing the way people watch movies as many have to constantly check their cell to check the almighty clock and to text or phone their friends instead of watching something magical and immediate right in front of them. And even still, the ten people who don’t phone text or talk are always the ones who act like they’ve never been in a public place or watched a movie EVER. What the heck people?
My Mom told me that when she recently took her Granddaughters to a movie, the youngest one who was at her first movie said, “Grandma this is a big T.V.!” This type of naïve enjoyment is oddly touching to me and one that I will always think now while at the theater. I try to attend movies in the theater as often as I can, or whenever I have extra resources. And I definitely appreciate this act of communal movie viewing and try to soak up as much magic as I can, and sometimes I too am as enthused as my three-year-old niece. But, “Cinema Paradiso” makes me yearn for a time when going to the movies really did mean something special. There was really a sense of freedom and discovery in it, a real escape from the outside world. Not to mention that the average citizen simply COULD NOT get the movie on disc a week later or see it on the internet that same day.
The one room school house is a thing of yesteryear (unless you’re Amish, 3rd World or elsewhere), as is the one screen movie house (though, I know a few still exist out there, but are mostly special serving operations). In the small town that I was raised near and connected to, some movies would stick around for weeks, even what seemed like an entire season. An extraordinary serving of movie magic like "E.T." would nest at what people referred to as "The Show" forever and every night you could pass on the main drive through town and see a long line wrapping around the building to see what the world was talking about. And I knew that at the end of that line lived a screen of silver EVERY SINGLE TIME. All that physically remains of the theater of my youth is the beautiful strip of hand-laid ornate tile introducing passersby to the left-over debris of a once mighty and sacred movie house. It’s quite tragic to me and I can’t help but get the goose bumps of childhood raised whenever I pass by or even think about it.
Unless I'm at an over-booked free screening of an anticipated film, I rarely experience long lines or even a full theater with full emotion and with the cinema on screen in complete control. And the cause and effects of the human spirit can be outrageous when the word FREE is stamped on the mind's marquee. Crowds can go insane, and can be quite intimidating, but there is also something bonding in and exhilarating about it. And watching “Cinema Paradiso” makes me want to dive right in. I see images of people watching movies within movies all the time, but it too rarely fulfills and captures what it is like to really dive. Even crowds at sporting events like a Major League Baseball playoff game feed off a high energy, enthusiasm, emotion and love…even after translated through cameras, satellites and into my television set, I get a contact high from it. I love simply watching a crowd. There is a strange out-of-control and anxious peace in it. I have always wanted to watch a movie of actual people watching an actual movie. The scenes similar to this idea in "Cinema Paradiso" feed my want as the sense of joy comes with experiencing what feels to be an authentic community taking part in something truly special being poured out of the mouth of a lion. Unison of grins, laughter, tears and horror is lit on the faces of the everyday as they escape to travel through film. They even riot and become rowdy if their film is out of focus or if the messenger bicyclist is taking too long to get the second reel that is in the next town. Now, that is passion and love.
Anyway, I’m rambling. I don't aim to put biblical or spiritual stock at the simple act of entertainment of going to the movies, but in some ways one movie can really provide for the masses like Jesus did with one fish. And just like how our own bodies and lives are merely a vessel for a bigger picture, so is a movie house.