Filmed in Italy and released in 1988 this is a magical film about the magic of the movies. The story is about relationships of all kinds but focuses on the friendship between a young boy who is a fan of the picture show and the man who projects the films in the local theatre. The boy is a nuisance at first and drives the local priest, the projectionist and his mother completely crazy. We watch him learn a trade, become a hero and eventually grow into a man, mostly in and around a movie theatre. Other relationships depicted in the film involve one between the local priest and the community. The priest controls censorship in the cinema. He screens the films alone and rings a bell at any objectionable scenes indicating to the projectionist what to snip. As the theatre patrons watch a romantic scene later that evening they inevitably loudly voice their displeasure as the kissing is missing in a jarring jump cut of homemade editing. “Will we ever see a kiss?” yells one of the patrons. We see two young people flirt in the theatre and eventually become partners in life. The movie theatre is an important communal space for the townspeople.
There is an emotionally hard-hitting scene early in the film. As a docu-drama featurette dealing with the local farmers being overworked starts to unfold some of the patrons start booing as they are anxious for the fun main features. A man stands up and demands they pay attention since the film depicts events that are affecting all of the working class in Italy and the patrons sit down respectfully. At the end of the short the crowd is sullen and grim but then a young Charlie Chaplin, full of fire and ready to entertain pops up and the audience roars into hysterical laughter. Its the cathartic experience of the cinema perfectly captured onscreen.
Arrow’s new restoration of the film is breathtaking. Always a gorgeous film to look at, in this new edition the earth tones are mouth watering in some scenes and the night shots are crisp. In addition to the theatrical cut Arrow has included the 173-minute director’s cut (viewed by this writer for review). Beautiful acting, a director who doesn’t waste a single scene and a gorgeous score by Ennio Morricone contained in a two-disc set with the main extras included with the theatrical cut.