Review by Brooks Williams
The crowd-pleasing CINEMA PARADISO will be playing at The Colonial this Friday evening. It’s always a pleasure to see it again—especially on the big screen. On its initial Italian release it was pretty much labeled a box office failure as critics were slightly disappointed at the sticky sweet sentimentality that seemed at odds with the rich, robust history offered to Italy (and then the world) by it’s filmmakers: De Sica, Antonioni, Rossellini, Lina Wertmuller, Bertolucci et. al.
But now it comes down to us (in multiple versions), as a beautiful evocation of childhood, friendship and art—and with a spectacular finale that has become a touchstone of modern Italian cinema in ways that endings of films like LA STRADA and ECLIPSE defined the post-war, politically charged atmosphere of previous generations.
One reason it now has a positive global reputation is because of Harvey Weinstein. Of course, at this time Harvey is about as welcome as a dentist in a candy shoppe; but still, we might give the devil his due here.
I had a recent conversation with a very literate, cinephile, female friend of mine—and I invited her this Friday to see CINEMA PARADISO. Here’s part of the playback of our talk:
“I’d never see anything Weinstein is involved with.” she told me.
“But the reason this film is now considered a classic is “because” of Weinstein. It bombed out at first, and then Harvey made a bunch of cuts—and that made all the difference.”
“I know where I’d like to make some cuts on Harvey.” She responded.
“Ouch, the man denies all charges. He hasn’t been convicted yet.”
“Don’t defend him. He’s a monster.”
“I’m not defending him,” I said. “I’m not defending his personality, his social life or his alleged predatory and abusive sexual practices—I’m just saying he knew his way around a film.”
“Well I can’t separate the artist from the art, in this case.”
“So, no more RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, THE ENGLISH PATIENT or GOOD WILL HUNTING?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“What about VELVET GOLDMINE? Harvey produced it. You loved it. You know you’re a big Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music fan. There were some Roxy songs in that.”
“I’ll still listen to their songs.”
“But I seem to recall that Bryan got in trouble in an interview when he said he admired Nazi flags, parades, architecture and uniforms. He said Nazis really knew how to present themselves.”
“I didn’t hear about that. And it’s not the same thing.”
“What about John Lennon. You love the Beatles. There’s a story that John punched Yoko in the stomach when she was pregnant with their child.”
“It’s just a rumor,” she responded.
“But if it were true should we boycott watching a HARD DAYS NIGHT and HELP?”
It’s just an unsubstantiated rumor.” She repeated.
“But isn’t it a rumor that Woody Allen sexually molested his little daughter Dylan? He was never charged with anything.”
“I’ll never see a Woody Allen film.”
“Here’s my take on the whole thing,” I said “If you’re looking for a saint who creates great art—good luck. Everyone is flawed and I don’t want to experience art made by Sunday school teachers anyway.”
She laughed. “Here’s my take on this whole thing. Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen and John Lennon and whoever else—are about as welcome as Mel Gibson at a bar mitzvah! And Mel is another one I can’t stand.”
“So,” I asked “I guess we won’t be going to see YELLOW SUBMARINE in August as we had planned?”
“I might go.” She finally said, “I love the colors.”
So, in any event, see Cinema Paradiso, not for the Weinstein connection—but for the multiplicity of its other cinematic virtues: the music (by Ennio Morricone and his son), the performance of Salvatore Cascio and the young “Salvatore”, and the fact that it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1989.
And, also for fun, you could get it on DVD, along with Buster Keaton’s luminous SHERLOCK, JR (a silent classic from 1924) and run them back-to-back. Both are about movie projectionists.
CINEMA PARADISO: See it, Love it —start a debate over it!