Reel Life

The unabashedly romantic Cinema Paradiso returns at its fattest and most fully realized

Naked emotion is a tricky thing to sell, especially in semiautobiographical films about confused mama's boys gradually learning that life exists beyond the control of their lens. The latter two of this cut's three hours richly expand upon the romantic longing (for Agnese Nano young, Brigitte Fossey older) and deliver the closing of a full narrative circle, with delirious, Sicilian cinephile Toto (played variously by Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi and Jacques Perrin) reckoning beyond sugary childhood memories toward an emotionally integrated future. Even if the romance doesn't work for you, the movie soars as a celebration of cinema and 20th-century culture. Knowingly, director Giuseppe Tornatore has booked his Paradiso less with the work of the Italian greats and more with the escapism of Hollywood, and in so doing he's built a bridge of familiarity for casual moviegoers who might not know Antonioni from Andy Dick.
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