The darker magic of cinema
Image Courtesy: douban.com
Giuseppe Tornatore burst into the limelight globally with his Cinema Paradiso in 1989. The start maker is one of his later works released in 1995 and was nominated for the best foreign language film academy awards in the same year. Cinema Paradiso was a nostalgic movie about the pains of growing up and the magic of cinema. It invited you all to come and fall in love with the movies. However the Star Maker showcases the darker side of being enthralled with the magic of cinema.
The movie is about Joe Morelli or Dr. Morelli as he calls himself. Morelli claims to be a talent scout for a big studio in Rome. He travels around small towns and villages of Sicily in the aftermath of World War II, promising to film the auditions of anyone and everyone who has 1500 lire to give as fee. All anyone who is interested in making big has to do is go to his tent, pay the money and enact a scene from ‘Gone with the Wind’. Morelli claims that he will sent the audition films to studio executives who would then get back to the individual whom they have selected. As he says repeatedly, he is not making any promises. But he gets the Sicilians hook, line and sinker when he gives off a list of famous actors whom he claims to have discovered.
The effect of the dream of making it big in the film world is huge among the townspeople. The townsfolk react to Morelli’s arrival as if the circus had arrived. There are large crowds around his tent who dream of the big salary and fame of making it big in the movie world. But most of the people don’t have the talent or the literacy to enact a scene from ‘Gone with the Wind’. So they begin to talk about their personal lives on camera which borders on confession.
Morelli however is a self centered man who is only interested in being remunerated for his efforts. He even takes sexual favors from a woman who doesn’t have enough money to pay for her daughter’s audition. He however begins to change when he meets a beautiful young teenage orphan called Beata. She scrubs floors at various homes and offices in town. To obtain the 1500 lire for the screen test, she strips naked in front of a local bigwig. Morelli however is taken in by the girl’s story as well as her naivety and begins to have feelings for her. She wants to travel with Morelli and get out of her present life. She believes that by making it big in the movies she will have a better life. Morelli falls in love with her and takes her along with him on his travels.
Image Courtesy : 1worldfilms.com
Just when we think that Morelli has turned a new leaf, it is revealed that Morelli is in fact a fraud and fake. He was doing nothing more than selling dreams to the poor impoverished people of Sicily. From then on the movie takes a darker turn and how this revelation eventually affect the lives of both Morelli and Beata forms the rest of the movie.
I loved this movie because of the slow change in the mood of the movie. It starts off as a light hearted and sometimes poignant comedy. The confessions of various people who come and sit in front of the camera are quite funny in the beginning. Then the mood slowly changes as the movie moves along and we hear some really touching confessions. It again changes when Beata come into the picture. Her innocence and naivety makes you sympathize with her plight and makes you want to protect her. But what really shook me was the climatic portions of the movie when both Beata and Morelli’s life becomes depressingly tragic.
Tornatore shows the beauty of Sicily as well as the ugliness in the hearts of men in this movie. He shows tremendous skill in a scene which has silhouette-saturated shots of Morelli inside his tent after dark. In my opinion he gets the pacing of the movie just right and I found it thoroughly enjoyable to watch. But what really impressed me is that there was no redemption for Morelli even at the end unlike some of the Hollywood or Bollywood movies that I have seen in the past. His sins catch up with him and he is forced to suffer the consequences.
Image Courtesy : sohu.com
The last sequence of shots where Morelli looks back sees all the confession that he had ‘filmed’ in his mind. All those confessions which we found to be comic earlier now take a whole new meaning. We watch it with a lump in our throat as we realize the true meaning of what the Police Officer who caught him, himself a victim of Morelli’s con, tells him, “Everybody confessed to you. They gave you their soul and perhaps they will never again. And you didn't understand a thing. They trusted you Morelli, and so did I. But all you wanted was money.” The sequence of shots reminded me of Tornatore’s famous last sequence of edited kisses in Cinema Paradiso. But in The Star Maker it evokes a totally different emotion.