Cinema Paradiso Reflections

Cinema Paradiso (1988) is my favorite foreign film, and one of my favorite films ever. It’s about a young Sicilian boy, Salvatore, and his lifelong love of the movies. He eventually grows up to be a famous film director. It’s also his coming-of-age story.

One of my former bosses told me about it, describing how much the film had moved him. I was skeptical. The few foreign films I had seen up to that point I didn’t like at all. One day he came back to the office after a meeting, handed me a free movie pass and said, “Here. I want you to see Cinema Paradiso. You never take a break, so take the afternoon off and enjoy.” I went the next afternoon, and loved it! I thanked him profusely for the movie pass, and it was the latest of many lessons in always taking time to smell the roses. Eventually I bought the video, and I still watch it whenever the mood strikes me. In 2005 or thereabouts, my aunt and I went to a Washington, DC theater to see the director’s extended cut. That version left an even bigger lump in my throat, but it was an even more satisfying story. Ennio Morricone wrote the music for the film. It is by turns, happy, wistful, joyous, sad, haunting, and everything in between.

The other night, I was listening to a podcast episode of Dr. Mark Malkovich’s program, “My Music,” on Rhode Island’s classical station Classical 95.9 WCRI FM. The program featured the music of pianist John Bayless, who covers many modern songs in a stylish, dignified way. He included the love theme from Cinema Paradiso on one of his CDs. Dr. Malkovich included that version on the program, and I kept playing it over and over. I  hadn’t realized how much I missed the tune. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Grooveshark lists more than 150 recordings of the melody; I listened to a few. Josh Groban sings the Italian version of the song on one of his newer CDs. Yo-Yo Ma has recorded an instrumental version.

I also went to YouTube. The first video is Ennio Morricone conducting, and a pianist playing the well-known melody. The second is a Polish orchestra performing a version for strings. Below these, I also include the English translation of the song. I don’t know which interpretation I like better.

Cinema Paradiso

If you were in my eyes for one day
You could see the full beauty of the joy
I find in your eyes
And it isn’t magic or loyalty

If you were in my heart for a day
You would have an idea
Of what I feel
When you hold me strongly to you
Heart to heart,
Breathing together

Protagonist of your love
I don’t know if it’s magic or loyalty

If you were in my soul for a day
You would know what is inside me
That I fell in love
At that instant, together with you
And what I sense
It’s only love.

As I reflect on the film, I think about how movies connect people, as pastime, entertainment, as a gathering place, as a shared memory. And I think about how nothing ever stays the same. I guess it’s never supposed to. “The only thing we can count on in this life is change,” another boss always told me. The theater where I first saw the film has closed, and much about the area is different now. I’ve gone through my own unpredictable career ride, friends have come and gone, and these two former bosses have since passed away. I miss them a lot.

But still, good things have happened to me in the years since, in spite of the challenges. I will concentrate on those.


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