“Cinema Paradiso” as a Example of Art, Culture and Community

April 24, 2006 by aaron

“Cinema Paradiso” shows just how important art, culture and community is in human lives. For many people in western societies art is something that hangs around the peripheral of their lives never fully entering or leaving. But for Salvatore art was the focus of his life through his youth and adult hood; art and movies were the common threads that connected his entire life together. For the townspeople art was also important to them but not as all consuming as it was for Salvatore.

The Cinema Paradiso itself was the figurative and literal center of the town in the early and mid years it was in operation. Eventually, as the community was able to connect to the outside world more and more the Paridiso was slowly forgotten, until it was finally sold and demolished. During it’s early years of operation the Paridiso was for many people was the only way for them to escape the pressures of living in Sicily after the Second World War, large numbers of soldiers died leaving families broken, the land was poor and work hard to find. As with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” the people gravitated to a single area to try to find some semblance of happiness in their lives.

Secondly, but some may argue most importantly, “Cinema Paradiso” shows just how art can effect the human condition. The Cinema Paradiso is not just the community’s center in the movie, but it is also the artistic center. Although to someone living in America the movies were considered normal nothing overly special to the people that went to the Cinema Paradiso the movies were a way of keeping in contact with the outside world and the only source of art in the town. To the townspeople as Alfredo said, “[they] think it’s the center of the world [but once you leave you realize it is not.]” In the context of the movie this idea is what lead Alfredo to push Salvatore out of town, he knew that the only way for Salvatore to grow artistically and make movies is by leaving the “backwater” town and force him to connect with the world. This is happening even today as certain types of people move across the country to other areas where more artistic is encouraged.

A minor theme in the movie is that of censor ship in artistic expression. It points out what some people consider art (such as kissing) other consider pornography and that censorship like all things is best left to the majority to decide. Censorship has a huge impact on the lives of people in a community, one can argue that censorship could be the major reason for the stagnation that effected the community and convinced Alfredo to send Salvatore away. Censorship as it pertained to the Cinema Paradiso evolved over the life of the theater from the beginnings when all kissing/romance scenes were edited out to the middle when romance/sexuality was allowed to the end when the theme of the films were specifically as evidenced by the movie posters) adult in nature. But the question is “Does censorship follow desire or desire follow censor ship?” Thats is did the censorship in the movie lessen because there was no public support for it, or was the desire for censored materials increased because they were censored? In Cinema Paradiso specifically it was the former rather than the latter because all the townspeople celebrated the first uncut movie. However in the “real” world it depends on the situation, for example in democratic societies it is frequently the former, that is people no longer want to be told what they can not do, yet in totalitarian societies it is often the latter. Censorship is a risky business in all matters not just art , the goal is to censor enough that society does not rampage and gut itself from the inside out in pursuit of pleasures, but not so much as to cause a stagnation of thought inside a community.

Art may be at peripheral of our lives but it is all around us, just look at any building for a moment, everything from the painting on the walls, to the carpeting, to the design of the grounds is art. Although the carpets are quite often ugly, they are still art, although most people just see the lanes of concrete surrounded by grass as a walkway they were designed by an artist. Even English courses are not an English course it is a course on art, the art of writing, real English courses deal with nouns, verbs and past-present participles, yet even still it is not considered an art course. Instead it is considered to be a course that teaches you how to use and understand English appropriately. Art is extremely important to very few people because frankly it doesn’t pay the bills. Unfortunately because of this art’s impact on our daily lives is very low for the majority, however what art does do is help to shape our thoughts and feelings without a conscious effort in ways that other things cannot.

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