Just got back from the Tribeca Film Festival screening of The Director’s Cut of Cinema Paradiso. What’s the difference? Well, Giuseppe Tornatore originally released a 155-minute version of the film, which went unnoticed, then it got cut down to 123 minutes or so. That’s when it won Cannes, Cesars, Igors, and the Oscar. So obviously, the thing to do is put back not only the missing 20 minutes, but an additional 15 minutes on top of that.
So what’s the difference in the story? In the movie experience? Since I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t know the story (It’s been 13 years, after all. How long are we supposed to keep a secret?), I’ll spoil it for you. When Toto/Salvatore goes back to his hometown for Alfredo’s funeral, he finds, meets, comisserates, and hooks up with the grown-up Elena, his long-lost teenage love. The whole reason they were separated turns out to be the saintly Alfredo, who told Elena to forget Toto and not look back. That’s the big difference.
But as Vincent Vega wisely noted, It’s the little differences. Toto’s first sexual encounter is with the ‘ho who turns tricks in the movies (and who gives him a nod years later outside Alfredo’s funeral); the sister’s married, with kids; Elena’s parents were very involved and opposed to the kids’ relationship; Toto’s stint in the army was due to a bureaucratic error; he changed his name to make movies. It all adds up to more information and character exposition, but far a less coherent narrative arc and a much muddier emotional mandate. Toto’s less likable, Alfredo’s more meddling and less sympathetic, and Elena’s, well, she can’t live up to the idealized, true love that lived in Toto’s mind (and that drove Toto to make his films). It was interesting to see the movie as a complex but ultimately negative example of a director’s unfettered vision. That the shortest version could be “pulled” from the longer version, that it could be so completely different in its emotional nuances was very instructive.
One last point: The setting of the film–in the aftermath of WWII–and the family’s irrational waiting for the father to come back/their denial that he’d been killed resonated more than I remembered. Of course, on both the way in and the way out, festivalgoers crowded the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floor windows of the Battery Park mulitplex, which offered full frontal views of the World Trade Center site across the street.