Sunday, January 18, 2009

Unresolved Feelings in Cinema Paradiso

After seeing Cinema Paradiso for the second time, I think I enjoyed it even more. As I mentioned in my previous post, movies with atypical endings always appeal to me. These endings do not necessarily wrap the plot up into a neat package. As David Bordwell puts it in his essay "Classical Hollywood Cinema: Narrational Principles and Procedures," the Hollywood "classical ending is not all that structurally decisive, being more or less arbitrary readjustment of that world knocked awry in the previous eighty minutes" (21). Most Hollywood films have made it a point to give its audience a nice pretty ending in order to satisfy, in my opinion, some cathartic need. We would all like to think that if a problem arose in our lives that it would be solved as easily as it is in most films. 

However, Cinema Paradiso presents us with the story of Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio), or "Toto,"a little boy obsessed with cinema. He befriends Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the town's only film projectionist, despite Alfredo's hesitation. We see the growth of this friendship through the years and Alfredo soon becomes a pseudo-father for Toto, who lost his actual father as a child. The story is presented to us as a flashback, but for the most part we do not see a clear cut problem that needs to be resolved by the end of the film. Instead we see Toto as a grown man (Jacques Perrin) remembering his experiences with Alfredo, particularly because Alfredo has died. Ultimately, there is no resolution to this "problem" of Alfredo's death.
Toto's life might have been "knocked awry" as Bordwell puts it by Alfredo's death, but that never gets resolved. Perhaps by the end, it has become even more awry with Toto feeling unsure about the life he has chosen to lead. Years earlier, Alfredo told teenage Toto (Marco Leonardi) to never look back, to never come back to their town of Giancaldo, because in the end the past will only hold you back from going forward. Toto never did go back and he never saw or wrote to Alfredo.  

Structurally, Alfredo's death was not the problem but the starting off point for the plot. By the end, we are not sure if Toto has accepted Alfredo's death, and thus in a way resolves his problem. The movie ends with Toto finally getting all the clipped love scenes that Alfredo had promised him when he was a boy. Their is closure for neither Toto nor for the audience. Alfredo died without seeing Toto ever again and Toto never saw him either. Most certainly, the ending is a bit gloomy. Yet, it seems fitting since other aspects of the film did not get wrapped up either, such as what happened with Elena (Agnese Nano). 

The movie veers from the typical Hollywood ending and leaves us with unresolved feelings. To me, this is more true to life. When someone important in our lives dies we often do not get closure. But I believe the movie ends in the way that it does with the clipped love scenes because ultimately the movie is  about the splendor of film and in leaving these clips for Toto behind, Alfredo reminds him of the bond they shared. 


lex said...

Greetings Belem,
My name is Alexis and I am ther person who will be grading the blogs in this course. I appreciate your choice in this post to focus on the dynamic of a world "knocked awry" and the question of whether or not it ever gets put back together.
You do a good job of tracking an important set of themes in the story and you pay close and specific attention to the trajectories of the main characters. What would enrich your reading of the film would be more specific references to what the film is doing from the perspective of those of us OUTSIDE the film. What do the choices in terms of framing, color, light, the connections between shots, the perspective the camera takes etc. tell us about these important themes and questions?
I look forward to continuing to read your work in this course.

Kevin Fu said...

you make an interesting point about the ending. while the ending of this movie does not contain a neatly wrapped up conclusion it still manages to satisfy viewers. i liked the photo.


Wynn Hunter said...

I liked your treatment of the plot elements and ending of Cinema Paradiso. I agree with you that both of these depart from “Classical Hollywood Cinema” as Bordwell describes in his article. Indeed, it does not seem as if there is any resolution to the “problem” of Alfredo’s death. Moreover, in the overall arc of the plot structure, it is not clearly defined as to what has been “knocked awry” in the first place. We can speculate that it may have something to do with Alfredo’s death, Toto’s romances, or his thoughts on his own life and past. Whatever it may be, as you clearly stated, it is never clearly defined nor resolved and thus leaves the audience with “unresolved feelings”, as you put so well. The only point on which I differ from you is that I believe that in providing the final montage of film clips of love scenes, Cinema Paradiso is bringing about a classical element of closure in the restating of Toto’s love of film and fantasy.

Katrina said...

I think you make really good points about the tone of the movie and how Alfredo's death was really like the jumping off point of the movie. I'm thinking now about your comments on the concept of closure in this film. Though you feel that there is neither closure for Toto nor the audience, don't you think that the demolition of the theater along with the montage of love scenes was a quasi closure?

Since most of the film is about nostalgia and Alfredo's insistence that Toto not be nostalgic, the demolition of the theater seems like a metaphor for the end of that nostalgia. Also, the presentation of the scenes that Alfredo promised Toto is like a culmination of their relationship. However gloomy the ending was, I feel like I left the movie feeling content with a feeling of closure for the characters.

JLking said...

I definitely agree with you that Cinema Paradiso does not follow the lay out that Bordwell describes. I also think it is interesting how, as you said, nothing is resolved at the end of the film and yet it still is an enjoyable film. It shows that not everything has to follow a certain formula in order for an audience to 'feel' while watching a movie. I also believe that this makes the film more realistic, as you mentioned at the conclusion of your blog. I think the point of this movie is to celebrate the art of film and to envoke nostalgia (as Laura Keeley described in her blog)

Sarah Goetz said...

Reggie A Pauly said...

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Lydia Loftis said...

Cinema Paradiso - its a story about a boy who obsessed with cinema and the movie shows a series of problems and the hero finds solution for his problems. It was a very optimistic movie and it ended up with a good message. Custom essay writing service is here to get more new review writing ideas.