Release title notwithstanding, this is no mere cash-in but director Giuseppe Tornatore’s original 170-minute cut, which flopped so abysmally on its first Italian release that it was withdrawn, truncated by 50 minutes and entered in the 1989 Cannes Film Festival in the hope that foreign success would help its flagging native fortunes. The rest is cinematic history: the shorter cut went on to win Best Foreign Film Oscar and a sentimental place in the hearts of audiences across the world. But the supreme irony is the hearts of audiences across the world. But the supreme irony is that the piece’s familiar two-hour incarnation is substantially inferior to Tornatore’s expansive, roundly satisfying original.
Largely unaltered is the nostalgic chronicle of a Sicilian youngster’s formative relationship with his local movie-house, the Cinema Paradiso, and its wise projectionist Alfredo; still enshrined are the affectionate performances of child-actor Salvatore (Jacques Perrin) on his traumatic returen home, however, shows what happens when he meets up with the never-forgotten teenage paramour and alters the whole tone of the film, darkening it considerably in effective counterpoint to the occasional slushiness of the central flashback. Here we experience a catalogue of loss, betrayal and regret. A masterpiece restored. Tornatore’s film is literally, a revelation.