From time to time the lush and evocative love theme from Cinema Paradiso presents itself on my playlist, or elevators, or in my car (I think you can hear it if you click on the album cover). It never fails to pull at my heartstrings, whether Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli sing it with Italian lyrics or it is Marc-Andre Gautier or Perlman playing it on their violins. Thank you, Ennio Moriconne.
I remember years ago when the movie first came out and how my mother had kept asking if I had seen it yet. She insisted. We had often shared similar preferences in foreign films (Priscilla Queen of the Dessert), shows (I think she even enjoyed Mamma Mia though I had played ABBA to death as a teen) and music (My One and Only).
As a young boy she took me to see the King and I, before I was even in school I believe. She had said we were going grocery shopping but I figured it out just steps from the front lobby of the Rideau theatre in Ottawa. I slept through many musicals and dreamt of having a bed in one of the box seats, so I could listen and dream.
There is a scene in Cinema Paradiso, if I remember it accurately when the old man has compiled deleted love scenes from all the movies he has shown at the cinema. The young boy, who had befriended him, a man now, sees this compilation for the first time. It is like a living love letter from the old man to the little boy, delivered years later. Some of the scenes are familiar to me and some I have yet to see. I’m sure my mother had seen most of the films in her time.
It was devastating, this simple tale of love for a person, for art, it was so well timed, directed and overall such a brilliant film, and brilliant ending to a film.
Now, years later I hear the music that went with that scene I think of my mother insisting that I see the movie and asking me what I had thought.
We weren’t an emotionally demonstrative family for the most part. Well, negative emotions could run rampant but the positive ones, and there were many, stayed buried deep inside, perhaps afraid to emerge, afraid of the power, not understanding how to hug, how to be close. Not being familiar with that language. Of course in later years I believe we came to appreciate how we felt, and showed through actions, the touch of a hand on an elbow, a hug, that we loved one another. We caught up with the rest of the world.
That music always catches me off guard. I need to at least sit for a moment, maybe put on a pair of sunglasses to mask the tears. It seems my mother in her way, was trying to tell me just how much she loved me, as much as the old man for the little boy. I can’t imagine being that small but I must have been at some point. How could you not love a little person, despite all of your duties as a lawyer’s and politician’s wife, and a mother of four? I hear it on a sunny Sunday afternoon, out of the blue and though she is gone now, I hear the message loud and clear and she is close.