Cinema Paradiso, that bittersweet nostalgic weeper of love and loss and cinema in small-town Sicily, is being released by Harvey Weinstein and Miramax in a newly restored version that adds back 51 minutes of footage that was trimmed prior to the film’s 1989 Cannes premiere. So when did Harvey Scissorhands turn into Harvey Padderfingers, anyway? What’s next, ”The English Patient: Redux”? The new ”Cinema Paradiso” clocks in at three hours, and that’s altogether too long for a movie that was never much more than a thin, if irresistible, sugar-wafer knockoff of Fellini’s ”Amarcord.” The original cutting wasn’t done by Weinstein, but it was very much in his showbizzy, let’s-move-it-along spirit, and it paid off as a signature early Miramax success. But who wants a wafer that takes all evening to nibble on?
The new version isn’t just endless. It heightens the deeply conservative spirit of Giuseppe Tornatore’s fable in a surprising new way. As before, ”Cinema Paradiso” tells the tale of Salvatore (Jacques Perrin), a successful film director who returns to the village of his boyhood and dreams back over his life. He remembers when he was a wee pup named Toto, who grows up under the wing of Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), the lonely projectionist who loves movies with religious devotion. Noiret, with his sad-walrus mug, remains a touching figure of broken-down paternal grace. Except that his relationship with Toto has acquired a new wrinkle: He’s now the person deliberately responsible for the young man’s loss of love. ”Cinema Paradiso” is still a paean to the magic of movies, only now it links that magic, directly, to the sublimation of happiness in life, a message that may not exactly draw crowds.