Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
The reel of film bequeathed to the director turns out to be a montage the projectionist spliced together by hand, using all of the movie kisses and hugs that the village priest demanded be cut from the theater's films over the years.
BUT... Luigi D. writes in with the following information:
You are commenting on the American release; several years ago in Italy I saw the directors cut, which has a SIGNIFICANTLY more detailed and darker narrative.
In the short version, Salvatore's love interest, Elena, moves away suddenly from the small Sicilian town of Giancaldo when they are teenagers. Salvatore never sees Elena again. He leaves Giancaldo, with old Alfredo's encouragement, who tells him never to return. Many years later, the adult Salvatore is a successful film director, but chronically unhappy with his relationships. He comes back for old Alfredo's funeral, he ponders his young love with Elena, and sees the destruction of the old Cinema Paradiso.
In the long version, as the cinema is destroyed, Salvatore sees a carbon copy of young Elena from his past (the real Elena's daughter!) goofing off in the ruins. Intrigued, he tracks down the adult Elena who is once again living in Giancaldo. During their emotional reunion, they bemoan the lost happiness that they could have had together. Elena reveals in a flashback that, before moving away as a teenager, she went to the cinema and gave Alfredo a note, for Salvatore, about her _temporary_ departure. Alfredo buried this note in the cinema and Salvatore never received it.
Alas, Alfredo's dark side is revealed: Alfredo withheld Elena's note, so there would be no risk of Salvatore compromising his potential greatness by staying in Giancaldo to settle down with Elena, his true love. Alfredo pinned his hopes and redemption on young Salvatore's success. Alfredo's sense of personal failure was so great that he was willing to destroy Salvatore's happiness in order to see the young man leave and become successful.
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