Cinema Paradiso has a very cool distinction that few other films have: it makes me love movies even more. Watching them, going to the theatre, talking about them, writing about them–everything. Each time I see LOTR: The Return of the King, I love it more. Every time I see A Few Good Men, I love it more. Same with Finding Nemo and The Apostle, no matter how many times I see them. But Cinema Paradiso, though I love the movie itself, makes me love all movies more. In the story there is an admirable, even enviable, relationship between a kind adult and a great kid that just shines, from beginning to end and in the good and the bad. You get the feeling that you’re watching something very tangible and special.
I have tried to write children’s stories and tell them to my kids. Sadly I only have a few to speak of. But they are still a strong connection I have with them. Erika and I like to sit and tell each other the story of “Hope at the Movies.” It’s a little girl and her dad who loves movies so much, they go every Saturday to the theatre. The joy we have telling that story is more than just bonding through storytelling. It’s more than just that we like the story. The subject is as much a part of that strong affinity we share when we tell the story together. It involves a theatre that’s kind of magic and people who go end up in the movies themselves and become a part of the adventure for real. Each time I tell it I wish I could really do that with Erika. Cinema Paradiso gives me this same feeling.
Now if you’re reading this and you’re Italian, don’t get a big head. Sure, this is only the second foreign movie to be MOTW and both have been Italian, but watch out that you don’t get a big ol’ Das Boot to the can. This German movie was simply captivating. I had someone recently say to me, “How can it be good? It’s about a bunch of German men in a submarine. And that’s it. For two and half hours!” But that’s the wonder of it. In theory, that should bore the tears out of anyone who tries to watch it. Even the title is boring… it means “the Boat.” Yawn. But somehow, the director and his team of actors and crew made me chew my nails, hold my breath, even hold out hope that the British don’t find these men. The fact that they pulled that off makes it a great movie.
Now at first I was perturbed by Grave of the Fireflies. I thought I had watched all 100 of the top 100 movies on the IMDb list, and then this one comes along, cracked the 100 list and messed everything up. (Note: Twelve Years a Slave is the new troublemaker. Gotta see that one.) By the time I got around to watching it, Fireflies climbed up to #92. At the time of this writing it sits at #83. I liked this one better than the highly esteemed Spirited Away, which is also a great Japanese animation film. Hard to watch, but also hard hitting. If you decide to watch it like I did, you will be moved. By a cartoon, no less.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Amy Jones, the voice of the Aunt in Grave of the Fireflies.
Best Actor: Salvatore ‘Totò’ Di Vita, who played Salvatore Cascio in Cinema Paradiso. Lovable kid who actually celebrated his eighth birthday while filming this movie.
Best Quote: “Life isn’t like in the movies. Life… is much harder.” – Alfredo, Cinema Paradiso
Writing this post, particularly the story of my daughter, is making me want to get back to writing. I love to write, but as Alfredo says, life is much harder. Going to take some discipline, but it will surely make me love writing and storytelling all the more.