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.
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.
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.