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Cinema Paradiso: why it was almost never released even though it was finished, the initial failure and the dubbing that forced the protagonist Giuseppe Tornatore’s film, which will now become a series, faced countless obstacles before securing a privileged place in history great of cinema And in the hearts of those who saw her

Cinema Paradiso: why it was almost never released even though it was finished, the initial failure and the dubbing that forced the protagonist Giuseppe Tornatore's film, which will now become a series, faced countless obstacles before securing a privileged place in history great of cinema  And in the hearts of those who saw her

Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) and Totó (Salvatore Cascio) are the central characters of Cinema Paradiso (IMDB)

“Cinema is better than life: with each film you are born again”. so referred Giuseppe Tornatore when he was interviewed during the premiere of cinema Paradiso.

It is one of the best films in the history of Italian cinema and, we could risk saying, in the history of universal cinema. The room, the melancholy, childhood memories, everything that could have been and was not, sexual awakening, life in a town, exile to the city, the search for a dream, the magic of movies, first love, parenthood, bonds, the passage of time, the tragedy after the war…. All this happens in Cinema Paradiso. All this went through our hearts when we saw it for the first time and when we see it again. And again.

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Cinema Paradiso promotional poster
Cinema Paradiso promotional poster

cinema Paradiso (New) premiered in 1988, and was written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. It was his second film; she was only 30 years old at the time of conceiving the film. Without a career to back him up, Tornatore went with his project under his arm in search of a producer who wanted to bet on his story, which had the cinema itself as its protagonist. He found a producer who knew how to see beyond the inexperience of the director and decided to bet on the film. It was about Franco Cristaldiwhom many recognize as the true author of this masterpiece that won an Oscar for best international film.

Cristaldi had worked with directors of the stature of Luchino Visconti, Mario Monicelli Y Federico Fellini, and was super recognized and respected in the industry. He was also the mentor of the actress claudia cardinale (who would end up marrying). She won three Oscars: Italian divorce (1961), of Peter Germi, Amarcord (1973), from Felliniand her own cinema ParadisoSure.

With this endorsement, Tornatore received Cristaldi’s permission and his idea became a project that would finally see the light of day. But this relationship would end in the most tense when, close to the premiere, the director insisted that the final version should be left with two hours and 52 minutes. The producer shouted to the heavens and flatly refused to let the film last so long. Reluctantly, Tornatore agreed to cut much of the film down to two hours and 22 minutes.

So with half an hour less, cinema Paradiso It was released on September 11, 1988. The result of the first days was disastrous: nobody went to see her, except in Sicily, where she did have a good reception; in the rest of Italy and in the most relevant points for the box office, such as France or Spain, it was considered just another film from the crowd.

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French actor Philippe Noiret was dubbed from his original language into Italian to bring his character Alfredo to life in Cinema Paradiso (IMDB)
French actor Philippe Noiret was dubbed from his original language into Italian to bring his character Alfredo to life in Cinema Paradiso (IMDB)

But both Tornatore and Cristaldi did not give up despite being at odds over the length of the film. With spirits on the floor, they took their production to the Cannes Film Festival and luck changed completely. But the producer continued with the idea of ​​cutting more and more, and was forceful with the director: if they wanted to be in Cannes, they had to present a shorter film. Pressured by the poor result of the first presentations, Tornatore accepted as a smothered blow, and reduced his work to 121 final minutes.

Already in Cannes, she received a standing ovation with the version proposed by Cristaldi. For seven minutes the audience applauded this film until their hands turned red. cinema Paradiso it won the grand jury prize and managed to be re-released. The success was immediate and the film was nominated for the Golden Globes, the Bafta and, of course, the Oscar..

Italian actor Marco Lonardi brought Totó to life as a teenager, who was discovering his first love (IMDB)
Italian actor Marco Lonardi brought Totó to life as a teenager, who was discovering his first love (IMDB)

cinema Paradiso It had already become a movie classic without us realizing it. Just in 2002 Tornatore premiered the extended version, the one he had put together for its premiere in 1988.

If we imagine this movie, the love song created by Ennio Morricone in collaboration with your child Andrea. Nostalgia takes over every note and chord, evoking those little towns in Sicily and that Italy hit after World War II. Impossible not to shed a tear from our eyes every time we listen to it.

Jacques Perrin played the character of Salvatore as an adult, who returns to the village after Alfredo's death (IMDB)
Jacques Perrin played the character of Salvatore as an adult, who returns to the village after Alfredo’s death (IMDB)

A separate chapter takes the actors of the film. Philippe Noiret gave life to Alfredthe one in charge of putting the reels of the films of the cinema. Alfredan illiterate man with a good heart, had been unable to have children and adopted the little toto as his disciple. Noiret was a renowned French actor who, despite falling in love with the script as soon as he read it, resisted learning Italian for the film.. That’s how it was folded by Vittorio di Prima, who had already done this work translating into Marlon Brando, Morgan Freeman Y Anthony Quinn, among others. He even gave the voice to the Sheriff from the animated film cars.

But perhaps the hardest part was finding the actor to bring the little boy to life. Salvatore either toto, as his relatives affectionately called him. For those things of destiny, the actor had the same name of the character: Salvatore Casio. In an interview to Guardian, the actor recalled the moment of the casting when Tornatore asked him what cinema was for him: “I told him it was like a giant television.” The director says that he looked at him strangely and then laughed. “Perhaps that answer was the one that gave me the role of Totó”he concluded.

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A father-son relationship was what Alfredo and Salvatore generated in the Cinema Paradiso story (IMDB)
A father-son relationship was what Alfredo and Salvatore generated in the Cinema Paradiso story (IMDB)

Thus, this link between toto Y Alfred It’s the one that moves us the most in the movie. That moment of escape from his own problems in the movie theater where dreams became part of his reality for a few moments. “Progress is always late”He tells Alfred a toto when in a fire he loses his sight, referring to the fact that the celluloid material was inflammable. Because Alfred orders him to toto let him go, and triumph. May he live the life he couldn’t have. Let him be someone in the big city. But we know that the heart of Salvatore he stays there, in Giancaldo, when he takes that train that tears him apart and takes him away forever from small-town life.

The magic of cinema can against all adversity, all sadness and all pain. There, we are the heroes, the spectators who are not so much, and we become companions and protagonists of the most diverse plots. cinema Paradiso has and will always have a place saved in the heart of each one who was carried away by the pleasure of enjoying the little things.

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