Mad Hatters NYC

Celluloid Heroes: Cinema Paradiso

Even New Yorkers with the most rugged, indomitable constitutions know when to shrug their shoulders and concede. Whether it’s a blizzard or a weekend where the MTA decides to re-route all the subway lines you actually use, there are just times when you need to say, “New York, right now, I’m just not that into you.”  For those evenings, weekends, weeks or months that you’d just rather spend holed up at home (we won’t judge), we’d like to introduce what we hope will be an ongoing segment called “Celluloid Heroes”, where we’ll pick a movie — preferably an old favorite — and pair it with something fun you can make at home.

To kick off the series, we decided on Giuseppe Tornatore’s cherished and award-winning 1988 masterpiece, Cinema Paradiso.  

Celluloid Heroes Cinema Paradiso

The official synopsis found on the Miramax website is as follows:

Cinema Paradiso is the beautiful, enchanting story of a young boy’s lifelong love affair with the movies. Set in an Italian village, Salvatore finds himself enchanted by the flickering images at the Cinema Paradiso, yearning for the secret of the cinema’s magic. When the projectionist, Alfredo, agrees to reveal the mysteries of moviemaking, a deep friendship is born. The day comes for Salvatore to leave the village and pursue his dream of making movies of his own. Thirty years later he receives a message that beckons him back home to a secret and beautiful discovery that awaits him.

Celluloid Heroes Cinema Paradiso

We thought we’d share our thoughts and memories surrounding this movie:

L.:  Truth?  When we rewatched Cinema Paradiso while Snowstorm Jonas kept us imprisoned in our tiny little apartment, my eyes welled up as soon as the music kicked in — all of two minutes into the movie!  It’s like a Pavlovian response.  The score is hauntingly beautiful, and it always brings me back to the first time I watched the movie.  

J.: Indeed, Cinema Paradiso evokes a nearly automatic response, the emotional equivalent of the reaction triggered when a doctor taps the sweet spot just below the kneecap, though I generally don’t tear up until the montage near the film’s end.

L.: And what an ending!  *sigh*  During that scene, as well as the farewell scene at the train station, I go from sniffling to full-blown ugly cry.

J.: Having worked at a 1920’s, single-screen theater, Drexel Grandview (now simply Grandview) Theater, in Grandview Heights, Ohio during my final years of college, Cinema Paradiso holds a special place in my heart. The scenes in the projection booth remind me of the many late nights I spent watching whatever film it was we were showing at the time from that cramped, dark vantage. Unfortunately, I don’t recall having a stool.

L.: Although Cinema Paradiso holds an obvious appeal to cinephiles, I think the featured theater in that tiny Sicilian town merely serves as a backdrop to explore a host of complex relationships between its patrons.  Love and loss are central themes as we watch memories and personal connections develop over many years.  The movies are a shared escape, which can be particularly powerful during times of strife.

J.: With every viewing of this film, I find something new to contemplate. On this particular occasion, my thoughts came to rest on the notion of memory. The mind is a fragile vessel. Our recollections change. Sometimes we misremember. Other times we intentionally redact or revise. Occasionally we forget. The people we come in contact with—the fraternities and sororities of shared experience—are the only ones who keep us honest. They validate and legitimize our memories. And as we lose those connections through the passage of time, as our protagonist learns, we become ever more isolated. Those memories, those truths, become real only in our own minds. Perhaps the lesson is to cherish those connections as much or more than we cherish our memories.

So reader, tell us: have you seen the movie?  What was your favorite scene?  Comment below or email us at – we’d love to hear from you.

Pair it with:

A bowl of spicy noodle soup

Celluloid Heroes Cinema Paradiso

We always have good instant noodles on hand, as any self-respecting Asian household should.  Make it spicy, so you can claim your tears and runny nose are from the noodle soup.

Celluloid Heroes Cinema Paradiso

– L. & J.





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