Giuseppe Tornatore

(Copyright © 1999-2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

7.0 The Best Offer (2013)
7.0 La Sconosciuta (2006)
7.0 Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Giuseppe Tornatore (1956) debuted with Il Camorrista/ The Professor (1986), a biopic of a famous mob boss, adapted from Giuseppe Marrazzo's novel.

He rose to prominence with the nostalgic Fellini-esque melodrama Nuovo Cinema Paradiso/ Cinema Paradiso (1988), the rare film set in Sicilia that didn't deal with the mafia.

The film (set right after World War II) opens with Salvatore's mother and her sister trying to communicate with Salvatore about something important. Salvatore lives in Roma and has become a distinguished filmmaker who changes lover all the time. We learn that he hasn't been back to his Silician hometown in 30 years. His lover tells him that his mother called to say that a man named Alfredo died. As Salvatore goes to sleep we see the flashback that is most of the film.
Salvatore is a little child who is fascinated by the movies, which are projected, in a big room of the small town, "Cinema Paradiso" by the middle-aged Alfredo and painstakingly censored by the town's priest. Every kiss is methodically removed from the film. Cinema is the biggest entertainment in the poor town. We learn that Salvatore's father went to war and never came back. His mother struggles to make ends meet and Salvatore wastes money on movies. She punishes him but Aldredo intervenes to help her out. One day, however, Salvatore almost burns down the house with the combustible film material that he stole from Alfredo's projection room, and his mother makes Alfredo swear that he will never let the child into the projection room. But one day adults like Alfredo have to take a school examination with children like Salvatore, and Alfredo would fail without Salvatore's help, which the child provides in exchange for permission to assist the man in the projection room. Meanwhile, a town's citizen originally from Napoli wins the lottery and becomes rich. Alfredo begins to train Salvatore how to operate the primitive film projector of the town, but warns him that it's a poor man's job with no future, and it is also a dangerous job. One day Salvatore's mother is officially notified that her husband died in the war and is offered a modest pension. One night Alfredo is projecting a movie ("The Firemen of Viggiu`" with Toto`) so popular that dozens of people were left outside, clamoring for a seat. Alfredo starts projecting the film onto the walls of the building across the square, to the delight of these people, but he neglects to keep an eye on the projector itself, which catches fire. The whole theater catches fire. Alfredo falls unconscious and is saved by little Salvatore who drags him down the stairs, but Alfredo is left blind. The rich Neapolitan, Don Ciccio, decides to rebuild the movie theater and hires Alfredo as the projectionist because now the child is the only one who knows how to operate the projector. Now the audience can finally see kisses on the screen. Salvatore is now making money, but Alfredo still advises him to find a better job.
The film fast forwards a few years. There are now cars in town instead of horses. Salvatore grows up and remains the projectionist, but the equipment is vastly improved. As a teenager in high school he falls in love with a new girl, Elena, the daughter of the bank manager. Determined to win her love, he spends every night under her balcony until one day she gives in. They become romantic lovers. Elena has to move to Palermo and Salvatore has to serve in the military. Elena disappears. When he returns to his hometown, Salvatore is jobless. Alfredo urges him to move to Roma and start a real career there. He warns him to never return to the hometown to avoid becoming nostalgic. The hometown is a curse.
Now we know why Salvatore hasn't been in his hometown in 30 years. The film now forwards to the present, with the middle-aged Salvatore arriving at his mother's place and then attending Alfredo's funeral. Salvatore witnesses the "Cinema Paradiso" being demolished to make room for a parking lot: the movie theater doesn't make money anymore in the age of videocassettes and television. Alfredo left him a film reel that contains all the kissing scenes deleted by the priest in the old days. Salvatore finally cries watching it and remembering the old days.

Stanno Tutti Bene/ Everybody's Fine (1990).

Una Pura Formalita`/ A Pure Formality (1994).

L'Uomo delle Stelle/ The Star Maker (1995)

La Leggenda del Pianista sull'Oceano/ The Legend of 1900 (1998) is a nostalgic, melodramatic fairy tale, a period piece that never delves into the historical issues and uses them as rococo` decor.

Novecento is a child born on a ship, raised by a sailor and never landed on earth. One day he starts playing the piano and reveals a genius for music. His only friend is a trumpet player (the one who is telling the story to the pawnshop owner where he just sold his trumpet and where he found the one and only record cut by the friend). Together the two became the musicians of the ship. The fame of the pianist grew to the point that the most famous jazz pianist came to challenge him: Novecento won in front of a stunned audience. But Novecento never found the courage to leave the ship, not even when he fell in love with a girl. He let himself blow up with the ship.

Malena (2000)

La Sconosciuta/ The Unknown Woman (2006)

Baaria (2009)

The Best Offer (2013) and The Correspondence (2016) are English-language films.