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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cinema Paradiso is a 1988 Italian coming-of-age movie in which a young Sicilian boy is taken under the wing of an older man who teaches him about the love of movies and helps him find his purpose in life. It's a charming tale of friendship and the love of movies that's the perfect introduction to foreign films for teens, despite some iffy scenes -- including a scene where young teens are obviously (if not explicitly shown) masturbating in a theater to a Brigitte Bardot movie, and a man who spits on those below him while in the balcony of the theater eventually gets pelted in the face with feces. Expect brief shots of exposed breasts in black-and-white movies. A man grabs a woman's breasts and starts to moan and grind his body into hers. There is some profanity throughout ("s--t," "bitch"), and two kids smoke a cigarette. A man is shown catching on fire in a projection booth and is rescued by a young boy who drags him down the stairs of the burning building. There is also some bullying -- a young boy is slapped in the head and hit with a ruler by a teacher when he doesn't know the answer to a multiplication problem, and a young man is punched in the face by a bully while trying to woo a beautiful woman.
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What's the story?
When something precious is taken from us, we reach for whatever might fill the void it leaves, so altar boy Salvatore (Salvatore Cascio) finds a substitute for the father he lost to war at the movie theater in the Italian film CINEMA PARADISO. In a small town, a priest sitting in the Cinema Paradiso rings a bell. The projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), tags the offensive footage for editing. Watching from the shadows is Salvatore. In time Alfredo reluctantly teaches the boy how to operate the projector. But running a machine in the dark, alone, is no life for a boy, he tells him. He has higher hopes for Salvatore. A film reel catches fire one night, burning the theater and badly injuring Alfredo. When the Nuevo Cinema Paradiso opens, Salvatore runs the projector. The patrons cheer at seeing on-screen kissing for the first time, free of censorship. It's a good life, but Alfredo's words haunt Salvatore until finally he leaves to pursue a filmmaking career. Salvatore gains a mentor and Alfredo gains a surrogate son.
Is it any good?
This bittersweet film is a bit slow for teens, but anyone with a true love of cinema who doesn't mind some syrupy moments will be charmed.
Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore takes the wholesome path in showing a relationship between an adult man and a child, and in doing so he demonstrates that age is no obstacle when it comes to friendship. That's a good lesson to share with teenagers who find themselves thumbing their noses at younger kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Alfredo helps Salvatore gain the confidence to pursue his passion in Cinema Paradiso. Who are your real-life mentors? Families may also want to talk to older children about the gifts they have to share with younger kids.
How does the theater -- and the films it shows -- bring the community together and perhaps even connect it to the outside world?
How is this movie a coming-of-age story? What are some examples of other coming-of-age movies?
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