Salvatore, called as Toto is a young boy in a Southern Italian village who is so fond of cinema. He spends all his time at the village cinema house which is called Cinema Paradiso. He is like a pest to Alfredo who should be in his 40-50's, who runs the projector. He is so intrigued by cinema and really wants to learn everything about what is happening in the projector room. He takes the film bits home and shares them with his mother, who lost her husband in the world war II, at a young age. The local priest has a big influence and he actually censores the movies which are shown. A preview show is done only for the priest who wrings a bell, meaning Alfredo should cut that scene before its screened for the public. Toto, as he is there always, is so curious to know what happens on screen (in the kissing scenes), but Alfredo doesnt even let him touch the censored bits of film. Alfredo is kind of fond about Toto but is still reluctant to teach him the details. However, when Alfredo has to take an examintion in the school, he has no option than to take help from Toto, who throws him his copy bit. Thats the beginning of a unique friendship between a boy and an adult. Toto soon learns everything about projection. Unfortunately, there is a fire in the projector room and even if Toto manages to pull out Alfredo, he loses his eye sight. A village man, who has just won a football lotterry, decides to rennovate the cinema house and calls it Nouvo Cinema Paradiso. The only person who can manage the projector is Toto, who is glad to work. Cicco, the new owner is not obliged to the priest and he doesnt mind any kissing scenes either. Alfredo visits Toto often at the cinema and motivates him to not miss his school. Toto, is in the high school, still working in the cinema and he meets Elena, daughter of a rich banker. They like each other but her father doesnt approve the relationship. Alfredo is all advise for Toto in all matters. Toto by now also has a small movie camera with which he makes his own short movies. Elena soon leaves the village with her family and Toto has to go for military service. His attempts to contact Elena is in vain. Alfredo motivates Toto to leave the village forever to pursue his dreams with movies and never to come back. He gets a strong promise from Toto to not return. Toto is now Salvatore an established film maker and he hasnt gone back to his village in 30 years. His mother informs him about the death of Alfredo and Salvatore comes back to his village for the funeral. Alfredo's wife tells him how much Alfredo loved him. She gives him something, as desired by Alfredo. Salvatore is also sad to see the theatre, which is not used these days, getting demolished to build a parking space. Alfredo goes back to his city and watch the reel of movie, the present from Alfredo. The reel is a short film made of all the censored kissing scenes, which Salvatore so longed to watch as a child.
The movie, though, is told in a flash back as and when Salvatore is informed about Alfredo's death. It is a simple and beautiful film. First of all the child Toto, how charming this boy is. He carries the movie in his shoulders for the whole time he is there. Secondly his friendship with Alfredo is so well told. The movie literally took me back to my own childhood, when we used to visit our village cinema houses, we had two nearby, with thatched palm leaf roofs and simple benches and chairs as seats. We used to collect the bits of films from the theatre compound and make our movie still projections using mirrors, an electric bulb and a cylendrical tube etc. I got really nostalgic about those days. The scenes inside the theatre have been excellent. So many funny moments. The disappointment and the excitement of the audience in watching the kissing scenes looks the same, through out the world. Excellent. So was the examination scene. There are some brilliant frames which can even evoke applause from professional still photographers. Its not just fun, there are many moments when this movie gives you a simple good feeling and a lot of nostalgia. And finally the joy and tears in the eyes of Salvatore when he watches the old kissing scenes,are simply beautiful. I think it is that last scene which takes this simple movie to a few levels above other good movies.
Italy or India, old movie houses all have had the same fate. So is the feeling we have when we go back to our past and meet some objects or people which were part of our life, years back. This movie will really make us think about our childhood.
One of the movie houses in my village is now being converted to a marriage hall. The other one was brought down by fire, intentionally set by the owner himself to, at least, claim the insurance.