Italian director discusses remarkable career

by Milton Lawson

Contributing Writer

Italian film director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, A Pure Formality) was recently in Houston promoting his new film, The Star Maker. Tornatore has already won an Academy Award for Cinema Paradiso, but was happy to be nominated again for this new film.

The round-table discussion began with someone asking Tornatore to discuss his work in the area of film restoration:

Would you discuss your work regarding film restoration, especially as it pertains to films of the 1940s and 1950s?

Those are the years that contributed to my imagination, even as a child. It could be that this influenced my love for cinema. It's not that I choose to restore films from the '40s and '50s because I like those films. I choose to restore them because those are the films that need to be restored, that are disintegrating.

Sometimes we find out that great, important films need to be restored, and we go ahead and restore them. But sometimes, we also find out that films that weren't as important are disintegrating and need to be restored, and we restore those as well, all the same.

The films of those years are like passengers on a sinking ship. They all have their own vital problems. You have to save as many as you can. You can't save some just because you like them, nor can you ignore ones that you dislike.

How was The Star Maker received in Italy?

It was very successful. It won the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival, and it received seven nominations for the (film awards voted upon by Italian journalists).

How would this success compare with your earlier films?

There is never one success that equals another. Every film has its own destiny, different from all the other films. Certain films have been disasters; certain films have had overwhelming success. You can never hope to repeat the destiny of one film in another.

Is it true that Cinema Paradiso was cut by an hour for its American release?

No. The only time it was cut was long before the American release. The film was originally shown in Italy, and when it opened, it didn't make a cent. Then we cut 25 minutes, and we opened it again in Italy, and it didn't make a cent. Then, it went on to be very successful at the Cannes Film Festival, and that version, the two-hour-and-five-minute version, is the same one that went on to America.

This year, you are nominated for that award. In the past two years, the Academy has been heavily criticized for its selection procedures, especially in the Documentary and Foreign Language Film categories. Do you have any suggestions on how to improve the Academy's selection process?

I will not voice my suggestions, simply because I once responded to a similar question back in Italy, and I was later quoted as saying something that would be impossible for me to say.

In the "age of communication," it seems like there's nothing harder to do than to communicate. For example, the other day, I read in a New York newspaper that The Star Maker had been chosen over Il Postino for the Italian entry for this year's awards. Impossible!

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