Returning to his tiny Sicilian village after a 30-year absence, successful film director Salvatore (Perrin) recalls, in extended flashback, his early childhood and intimate friendship with the town projectionist, Alfredo (Noiret). With his own enlisted father presumed dead on the WWII front, the young "Toto" (Cascio) badgers Alfredo for strips of film, then becomes his assistant and, later, closest friend. But Salvatore also returns with a heavy heart, as he recalls a painful, forced separation from his one true love.
Shot on location in Tornatore's hometown of Bagheria, Sicily, this gorgeously nostalgic semi-autobiographical film pays tribute to the magic and wonderment of movie-going while spinning a bittersweet wartime tale about love and lingering disappointment. A masterly evocation of time and place, mood and feeling spiced with Fellini-esque humor, the decades-long story gingerly unfolds alongside well-chosen clips from Lang, Renoir, and Welles. Tornatore's bold direction of spunky young actor Cascio and Marco Leonardi, who plays Toto as a lovestruck teen, adds to the ease with which we identify with his predicaments; and Noiret is superb as the humble but soulful Alfredo. Winner of an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, "Paradiso" will capture your heart and imagination.