“An enchanted village. A wonderful friendship. Star-crossed lovers. And the magic of the movies.” Cinema Paradiso hits every one of these beats. I celebrated, laughed and cried in all the right places. But, as Tornatore’s obituary to classic movie theatres, Cinema Paradiso doesn’t capture what the movies mean to me – it’s a lamentation for a filmgoing generation I was never a part of.
My childhood memories of film aren’t accompanied by a sense of fellowship, but of isolation – a love of stories, characters and escapism that served as an alternative to the community that Cinema Paradiso champions. My movie-going generation has not produced the kind of brilliant artists the film celebrates, but a brooding, sensitive writer-director breed more concerned with the emotions of an audience than the sociopolitical context of a film.
Of course I’m not saying its depiction of cinema is wrong. The whole point of watching IMDb’s Top 250 films is to broaden my understanding of the medium. There were moments when, not from nostalgia, but from context and performance, I smiled warmly at the cast of characters who inhabited the Cinema Paradiso – and balked at the commercial shell of the Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. Their love of film did briefly become my own. Their tears, romances, and fights could be my own memories.
But beyond the closing titles, they vanish. They belong in a different time. I suppose that’s what an obituary is: a notice of death, only affecting to the people that ever really knew cinema as it was.