Robert Osborne introduced Cinema Paradiso on TCM tonight, gushing about what a great film this is, so I finally sat down to watch it.
Huh? It's basically a rehash of Amarcord, I Vitelloni and The Last Picture Show only lobotomized, with gallons of Morricone's syrupy score poured on top. I don't believe Fellini would ever stoop to scenes like the young girl going up to the boy's projection room, or the boy as famous filmmaker crying over his friend's archive of film strips; this kind of 'magic' works wonders in the boxoffice, I suppose, but it's not heartfelt filmmaking, it's shameless tearjerking.
I think I know why Morricone works well with some filmmakers, not with others. Sergio Leone makes films on a grand scale, and demands grand emotions--emotions he doesn't fully buy into; in some sense they're basically there to give his lovingly designed shots emotional heft and and weight, and Morricone works to add to that impact (surprisingly, I think he works well with DePalma too--another stylish cynic who often goes for operatic granduer). When ask to score something intimate and character-driven like this, Morricone's too big; he makes the scene mawkish when it demands subtlety and understatement. Or maybe it's just the director who can't juggle all the elements with the required skill.
Might as well note that a Filipino filmmaker, Mel Chionglo, remade this film as Lagarista (The Film Biker, 2000), which is even worse than this, believe it or not.