Music Break: Cinema Paradiso (1988)

I’m not feeling too well today so naturally I turn to lush, gorgeous music to make me feel better and this one just immediately came to mind. In fact, as I said in my Cinema Paradiso review, I had fallen in love with Ennio Morricone‘s soundtrack long before I finally saw the film. Of course the film itself is just as beautiful as the music and I have since bought the Blu-ray and hope to re-watch it soon.

I didn’t know until much later that the Roman-born, 83-year-old composer is more well-known for his work in Spaghetti Westerns directed by his friend Sergio Leone, including A Fistful of DollarsThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West. He ended up composing music for over 40 Westerns. Not a fan of that genre, my favorite soundtrack of his are the non-Western soundtracks such as The Mission, The Untouchables, and of course Cinema Paradiso, which I regard as one of my all time favorite movie music.

I read a while ago that the composer was involved very early in the process with the film’s director Giuseppe Tornatore, even as early as the screenplay process, which perhaps explain the integral part the music plays in the film. Now, this love theme was composed by Ennio’s son Andrea, and they shared their BAFTA win for Best Original Score.

I’m often drawn to music that truly stirs the soul, one that gets me feeling all emotional, the more tear-inducing the better. This melody is so hauntingly beautiful, poignant, romantic, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. It’s impossible not to be moved by the story of bittersweet relationship between a young Italian boy and a local cinema projectionist… and the music is the perfect complement to such a marvelous film. It’s one of those evocative music that soothes the soul and warms the heart. It also takes me back to the wonderful scenes of the protagonist Toto and Alfredo in that charming Sicilian village.

Normally I prefer the instrumental version of a soundtrack but a few years ago, I discovered this lovely song by Monica Mancini (Henry Mancini’s daughter) titled Remember… I absolutely love it, the melody, the lyrics, her voice. I like it so much that I bought her CD. Take a listen below…

Cinema Paradiso‘s soundtrack the kind of music as timeless as the everlasting magic of the cinema… a masterpiece work by a maestro that can be enjoyed by any generation for years to come.


Have you seen Cinema Paradiso? What’s your favorite Ennio Morricone’s work?

Rental Pick: Cinema Paradiso (1988)

I saw Cinema Paradiso a few months ago during our monthly gals’ movie nite, but haven’t got a chance to write a review on it. Since I just watched Nine recently which share a ‘cinema italiano’ theme, why not do the review back to back (the Nine review will be up tomorrow). But the the theme and filming location are where the similarities end, because these are completely different movies, as far as the east is from the west in terms of style and quality.

CINEMA PARADISO (Director’s Cut)

I first heard about this movie when I heard the gorgeous soundtrack by the renowned Ennio Morricone years ago. The instrumental version is obviously magnificent, but when I heard Monica Mancini (Henry Mancini’s daughter) sang the English version of the song, I fell in love with that, too. It turns out the movie is really is as charming as the music.

It’s a touching tale of unlikely friendship between a theater’s projectionist Alfredo and a young boy Toto (Salvatore). Directed by Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore, Cinema Paradiso won all kinds of awards when in came out in 1988, including Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film, and it’s easy to see why. Everything about it is so enchanting and the story is rich with themes of friendship, love, loyalty and of course, a celebration of the world of cinema. The movie is divided into three major sections, marked by the three different actors playing Salvatore. All of the Italian actors did very well to capture the adventurous yet melancholy spirit of the main character smoothly from one to the next.


Section one focuses primarily on the friendship between Alfredo and Toto. It begins with a middle-aged man living in a luxurious condo in Rome, who just learned about the death of a loved one. We’re not told who this ‘Alfredo’ person, but we know from the man’s reaction that he means a lot to him. Then the movie switches to flashback mode, we’re transported to a small town in Southern Italy during post WWII era. We watched the mischievous Toto growing up with a natural fondness for the world of film, constantly sneaking into the movie theater and hassling Alfredo. The strict Catholic customs means censorship is controlled by the town’s priest, whose task is to make sure the movies are stripped off any romantic/sexual scenes. Toto are persistent to get his hands on those very splices of films, and he eventually does, which somehow leads to a fire accident that gets him banned from going to the theater. Despite his initial reluctance, the two form a father-son bond and friendship and Toto becomes the only other person besides Alfredo who knows how to run the projector in the whole town. The ending of this part is one of the most memorable part of the movie, where Alfredo treats the whole town to a free movie right in the piazza, as he projects the film onto a wall of a house from the window of the theater. But tragedy strikes, followed by a momentous rescue that changes both of their lives forever.

Years passed and in the second section Toto has grown into a handsome young man, ready to fall in love. The subject of his affection is Elena, whom he falls for at first sight. Elena doesn’t immediately return his advances, but the hopeless romantic Toto waits, literally, outside her bedroom window every night until she responds (a la Freddy waiting for Eliza on the street where she lives in My Fair Lady). The romance is sweet, but it doesn’t quite eclipse the friendship part of the story, as we slowly learn that Alfredo plays an integral part in how Toto ends up being a successful filmmaker that we see in the beginning of the movie.

The last section pretty much picks up where the beginning scenes left off, where the older Salvatore first heard of Alfredo’s death in Rome. He returns to his hometown after years of being away, and makes good of his promise to never come back until his dream to be a filmmaker is fulfilled. The ending of Salvatore alone in a private theater watching a very special montage given by his beloved friend is a real tearjerker. It provides a significant and sentimental finale to Alfredo-Toto’s relationship.

Now, I definitely will try to see the original 154-minute version that has a different ending involving his long lost love Elena. The way it’s described in Wikipedia, I think would bring closure to the budding romance that ended so abruptly, but turns out it was driven by love after all. It’s hard to imagine that its original release in its native country was actually a flop, it wasn’t until it was shortened to 123 minutes for international release that it achieved a great deal of success.

I absolutely LOVE this movie, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to see it again. The fact that it’s set in Italian with subtitles adds to its charm as well, and the gorgeous cinematography and setting makes it feel real and authentic. It’s really a must for anyone who loves films or even those who appreciate a classic drama where the beautiful story is the STAR of the movie. Bravo!

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Have you seen this film? Please share your thoughts in the comments.