My girlfriend and I rented the “new version/director's cut” (2002) of Cinema Paradiso. We’d both seen the original (1989) many years back and remembered it fondly. But when we popped in the nearly 3 hour “new version” we slowly got the feeling we were watching a different movie. And, really, we were. The power of editing so often underestimated.
By the 1.5 hour mark, the new version had added an additional ten minutes to the film. Seemingly not much, but it left us with a feeling of tedium. Added with that ten minutes was a sense of languishing. Perhaps the original editors weren’t just hacks.
In the original, at this point the film would have another 30 minutes to pull itself together and climax. But in the new version, you’ve got another 1.5 hours. We became solidly bored and frustrated with a love story that labored on out of control. It was at this point the “new version” takes off in quite a different direction than the first. And we became frustrated with ourselves for not having re-watched the original version (which was on the same DVD – just the other side).
Anyway, taken on its own. I’d give this “new version” a B-/C+. And if I didn’t have fond memories of the original, the new would fall further into the C range. So, by all means, if you’ve never seen “Cinema Paradiso” make sure you see the original version -- not this new version. And if you rent the DVD, be very careful as you put the DVD into the drive, the menus don’t make it all that clear which version you’ll be watching. That is, “New” or “Old” version is not an option – as you might expect. It simply says “Old” or “New” faintly below the title.
We barely made it through the new version. Then in the morning I fast forwarded through the original version to see where edits had been made out of all that extra footage. I’d like to pat the back of those who smartly edited the original. And in fact, after you watch the original, you might want to fast forward the newer one to the 1.5 hour mark on to see what had been cut out. Now, that’s kind of interesting. You’ll see how the long version’s love story has quite a different flavor and some major differences. Still, its cutting was absolutely necessary (in my opinion).
Ironically, though, in a film whose early subject matter included the cutting out of “kissing scenes” – ultimately, “Cinema Paradiso” is a film with a strong kissing scene removed. Also, one of the lines in the film, “The picture is too high-brow for us” ultimately, the newer version is more high brow, with a very very telling/surprising twist to the Alfredo character that is never revealed in the older version. And since this element has been edited out of the old version, it is really made lower-brow/more commercially acceptable.
All that said, again, I recommend the 1989 version. See the new version – only with a FF remote control.
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