cinema paradiso

by Sharon Santoni

toto watching film

When my husband was a little boy, spending the hot summer months in a mountain village of the French island of Corsica, there was plenty of entertainment.  Those were the days when children had a freedom of movement that is rarely experienced today.

Days were spent swimming in the mountain river, meals were happy and busy, the afternoon siestas were long, building up strength for the long evening ahead.  Family dinners, village balls, and now and again, his favourite … the cinema on the village square.

film projected in village square

Of course there was no real cinema in this tiny village with a population of 200 in the summer and 50 in the winter.  But once every couple of weeks, during July and August, the cinema would come to the village …. by car.

A local man who was passionate about films, toured the mountain villages, showing old films on a dodgy projector.  Sometimes a huge bed sheet would be hung between trees to form a screen, but more often they used the side of the least decorative house on the village square and simply shone the light against its wall.

Everyone in the village would know that it was cinema night, but not necessarily which film was to be shown.  They brought their own chairs and cushions, a shawl to protect shoulders from the evening breeze, and the film would become a collective experience, one that everyone saw and could comment upon and dissect for days to come.

The charm of another era, before we knew what a computer was, let alone internet.

Today, with a huge heat wave sweeping over France, if you are visiting Paris, you may like to know that there is an open air cinema festival running from the end of July until mid August.  You can watch a film at Montmartre, on the place des Vosges, or even in front of the Invalides.  Read about the programme right HERE.

It won’t have the charm of a tiny village in Corsica, but hey, it’s Paris, you’ll be fine!

watching cinema overlooking Paris

images 1&2 from film Cinema Paradiso

22 comments

Barbara Warren July 3, 2015 - 7:21 pm

Thanks Sharon for the great commentary, and a great tip! Once again, your blog scores! Love it so much. Have shared to many friends! B

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Vicky from Athens July 3, 2015 - 7:56 pm

What fun. It reminds me of going to drive-in movies when I was young!

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Laurence Baudoin July 3, 2015 - 8:21 pm

In Paris right now, sorry they haven’t started earlier in the month.
There are also lots of freen concerts & access to the grass in the evenings in most parks.
I lived in Ardèche when I was a child & we, too, had someone coming once a month showing us a film, it was so much fun…
Thanks for sharing all these beautiful memories with us.
Over the weekend I will be using some of your tips for the puces in Paris.
Cheers
Laurence

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suzanna July 3, 2015 - 8:26 pm

Hi Sharon, yes days of another era of charm….I miss that, I am seeking to find a small village again….my tribe…..wonder if this Paris cinema has installed “misting” machines that will help with the heat! I love them, it is HOT HOT HOT here too in Floirda and the USA National Holiday…..lots of 4th of July food…..I would like a slice of that pineapple upside down cake on Ellie’s blog, have some decorum. hee hee…….enjoy a blissfilled weekend! xoxox

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Barbara Novello July 3, 2015 - 8:30 pm

You are so right about those days. I grew up in Pennsylvania in the most freeing childhood ever! Fun, playing outside, no locked doors – total freedom to grow physically and emotionally. So sad for the children of today.

Love your blog!

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Chrysanthemum July 3, 2015 - 8:59 pm

We’re in Vienna and there are free movies, operas or concerts on the huge screen, at the Rathaus, every night all summer; and at Karlskirche as well as a few other places. It is a lot of fun to sit among so many others and enjoy a special moment: the Vienna New Years concert or tomorrow night a Pink Floyd concert. Gotta love it! Sometimes it is standing room only.. Too bad we don’t have this as much back home in North America. Just love the European culture!

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Lynne Redding July 3, 2015 - 9:26 pm

I was visiting your beautiful area last week at the height of the heat wave. You so inspired me Sharon that I got on a plane stayed overnight in Chantilly, rented a car and drove all through the L’Eure valley. Just enchanting. Coming back next year. As a little aside, Cinema Psradiso was filmed in the village where my father was born in Sicily. It’s called Palazzo Adriano. Visited it for the first time two years ago and it is truly magical. Sadly the Cinema burned down but the town square hasn’t changed in 200 years. Arrived in England a few hours ago, and even though it was hot, hot, in France, I missed it as soon as I stepped off the plane.

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PEGGY BRASWELL July 3, 2015 - 9:41 pm

reminded me of drive inn theaters + must be wonderful + loved the drive inn theaters so much, xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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Our French Oasis July 3, 2015 - 10:23 pm

As you say, it was another era, when children could roam all day, only returning for supper. I have never been to an open air movie or a drive-in movie, but it sounds like an enormous amount of fun, have a great weekend. Scorching hot here, 10.30pm and still 28C!

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Diana July 3, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Thanks for the reminder about Cinema Paradiso~ a magical charming film….how lovely to think of your husband enjoying that special experience whilst growing up in Corsica. Our family has a great love of Corse, for us the Mediterranean version of the Scottish Highlands!

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Kathryn Gauci July 3, 2015 - 11:02 pm

It sounds like a wonderful experience. I lived in Athens during the seventies and going to the outdoor cinema in the summer was great fun; cats fighting in front of the screen, people watching for free from nearby balconies, etc.
I also recall going to a village in the Loire in the sixties. From memory, I think only two people had a television. The villagers used to smarten up in their Sunday best whenever they called around to watch a film.’

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Susan (une femme) July 3, 2015 - 11:50 pm

There’s nothing like watching a movie outdoors on a blanket in a park. It’s a special experience! Some towns nearby do this during the summer, but I haven’t been in ages. Thanks for the reminder to check out the local offerings, though I’d rather be doing it in Paris!

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carroll July 4, 2015 - 1:48 am

My childhood was filled with freedom also and your imagination took you to many places. Playing hop scotch, building leaf houses, playing tag, wandering in the woods and streams. Bringing in the cows for the neighbour (he was our milkman.) Sunday school, summer bible school, church picnics (always made sure you got a piece of Mrs. Parkhouses raisin pie), ice skating, tobogganing , carnivals, horseshows, etc. I had a wonderful childhood in a town of 500. Oh the memories!!!

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Jeanie July 4, 2015 - 1:54 am

It all sounds so enchanting… Thank you for sharing such a lovely post!

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Iris July 4, 2015 - 2:24 am

Hi Sharon
You have stirred up some great memories. We hosted an outdoor cinema evening for a few summers when our girls were younger. We used a painters drop sheet for the background and always had a theme surrounding the plot of the movie. It was great fun to plan and even better when I saw how much our family and friends enjoyed the event. Now with young grandchildren it would be more challenging to continue this tradition, however not to say that I won’t come up with a new twist to include the next generation.
Thanks for the inspiration!

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Emm July 4, 2015 - 2:59 am

“Cinema Paradiso”, one of the best movies ever.

I went to see that movie on the last night of its run in a small theatre in a small New England town. We went to the very last showing, and as we walked to the car afterward, we saw the projectionist dashing out the back door for his car, carrying the film reel. Life imitating art! One of life’s perfect little moments.

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Julia July 4, 2015 - 7:57 am

One memory of that film – the couple who meet in the cinema in one scene, hold hands in another, kiss in another, make love and finally appear with a baby 🙂
I watched it in the original Italian, it was charming 🙂

PS I ordered your book but September is a long time away 🙁

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Karena July 4, 2015 - 5:03 pm

Sharon, how enchanting to experience this in a little village. It does remind me of our drive in theaters when I was little ( though much more commercial in nature)!!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
Gallery Opening!

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Laura July 4, 2015 - 9:12 pm

We took our children to stay a few weeks in the little town of Ansouis (sp?) one year when Italy and France were in the World Cup. Out kids were big soccer players. The town hung a huge sheet on a wall and projected the game. Everyone was there and it was so fun! it was the year of the famous head butt by Zidane, my oldest son’s hero! We will never forget that great night!

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Cindy July 5, 2015 - 1:26 am

Happy weekend to all !
I am happy to say that in my small town, the kids are still able to ride bikes and skateboard down tree lined streets in friendly neighborhoods. They spend summers in packs exploring the everyday adventures and playing sports. When too hot, (we live in Texas) they find refuge at someone’s home to play video games or swim. And….our town shows movies in the park during the summer evenings. Take a blanket or lawn chairs and a cooler of cold drinks and snacks. The kids can play or watch the film or do both. And of course it is free for everyone. Small town summer. 🙂

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ardith July 5, 2015 - 4:00 pm

Thank you, Sharon, for sharing this story, reminding me that Cinema Paradiso is one of my all-time favorite films, and for inspiring commenters to share such lovely memories. Cheers, Ardith

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Marilyn July 16, 2015 - 12:02 am

Cinema Paradisio is one of my all time favorite movies.

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