Dinesh AyyappanComment

Cinema Paradiso

Dinesh AyyappanComment
I was talking with a friend recently about the best way to experience a museum. Is it in a tour group with an expert? With an equally clueless friend? With no one but your thoughts? Each has its merits. Sometimes, it's really wonderful to go through at your own pace, deciding exactly when you're done looking at one piece and ready to move on to the next. But it can be just as wonderful to travel with a friend, expert or not, contextualizing each exhibit with perspectives different from your own.

I think the same applies to movies. One semester, a dear friend convinced me to take a film class with her and a bunch of Drama majors. That class shaped me more than many others. The professor was an old, grumpy fellow who knew cinema better than he knew himself. He seemed a little coarse - raspy in voice and demeanor. Put a movie in front of him, though, and he was indistinguishable from a child who had managed to watch more films than his lifetime would permit. Watching classic European masterpieces with him was far more enriching than it could have been on my own.

But such is the nature of an introduction. It's easier with a friend.

This past week, I revisited one of the films we watched. I didn't quite connect with it the first time and thought it was worth another shot.

Cinema Paradiso .

It's an Italian movie from 1988, with a score by Ennio Morricone (who won an honorary Oscar for being one of the best film composers ever). It's about a boy, Toto - short for Salvatore - and his friend and mentor, Alfredo. Toto grows up loving movies, as Alfredo did many years before, and Alfredo bestows upon his little apprentice many life lessons. We get to know Toto as a little boy, a young man, and a gray-haired adult, and learn the value and meaning of the time that passes in between.

Some journeys are best taken alone.

In another case of 'you-get-what-you-give', I was able to invest so much of myself, my attention, into the movie, and it had just as much to give back. For the hours that flew by, the characters were alive, the story, real, and the lessons, tangible.

Movies like this are special. They are of a rare breed of experiences that are rich enough to keep you company. These are not lonely journeys.