Salvatore Cascio and Philippe Noiret in Cinema Paradiso courtesy Miramax Films
A movie about growing up at the movies, she-demons vs. holy man, a time-travel comedy and more!

Question: I love reading your weekly column and know you'll be able to help me. I can't remember the name of an Italian movie I saw in the late 1980s or early '90s. It's about a boy growing up in a small village; he spends a lot of time at the cinema and the man who runs it becomes a father figure to him. The church requires that the man cut out any kissing scenes before the movies are shown and the boy is always trying to look at the deleted scenes, which the man keeps in a box. Lots of stuff I don't remember happens in the middle, but the boy grows up and I think he becomes a filmmaker. When the old man dies, the boy - now a man - returns to the village and finds that the man spliced together all the kissing scenes to create a "movie" and left it for him. I remember it being a very moving story and would like to share it with my friends, but I don't remember the title and I didn't recognize any of the actors. Thanks. - Dawn

FlickChick: Your confidence in me is touching, and as it happens I can help out here: The movie is Italian writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore's semi-autobiographical Cinema Paradiso (1988). The first part revolves around a movie-besotted child, Toto, who is growing up in small-town Italy after WWII - much of it was shot in Tornatore's own Sicilian hometown - and his relationship with the avuncular Alfredo ( Philippe Noiret), the projectionist at the town's movie theater. In the second part, the grown boy, now an internationally renowned filmmaker, revisits his past.

It's one of a select group of movies critics like to call "love letters to the cinema," movies that include Francois Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), Agnes Varda's One Hundred and One Nights (1994), Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers (2003), Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singin' in the Rain (1952), Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om (2007), Roman Coppola's CQ (2001), Tsai Ming-Liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), Hector Babenco's Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Once Upon a Time, Cinema (1992), Davide Ferrario's After Midnight (2004), Xiao Jiang's Electric Shadows (2005) and even Federico Fellini's starkly hallucinatory 8 1/2 (1963).

Given the range of countries from which these movies hail - Italy, Iran, France, China India, the U.S. - it seems pretty clear that movies are an international language of longing, desire and memory. And like most of its brethren, Cinema Paradiso is a bittersweet rumination on the intersection of glorious fiction and all-too-imperfect life.

Cinema Paradiso exists in several versions: The two-and-a-half hour version that was released theatrically in Italy in 1988, the subsequent two-hour cut that played the U.S. and became a huge hit, and a restored version released in 2002 that clocks in at three hours and includes a major subplot involving Toto's first love, which was excised from the first U.S. version.

Question: Do you remember the movie "Warrior Monk" - I think that's what it was called - about a monk who fights two female demons who come back to life? These demons suck out men's souls and substance. I've been trying to find it on DVD, but all I get when I search on the name is karate movies. Please help! - Frank

FlickChick: I'm pretty sure what you're looking for is the made-for-TV movie Saint Sinner (2002), written by Clive Barker. Confusingly, it shares its title with one of the Razorline comic books Barker created for Marvel in the 1990s, but the premise is entirely different. It involves a 19th-century monk who accidentally unleashes two succubi - female demons - on the 21st-century world and has to travel through time to stop them. Originally broadcast on the SciFi Channel, it was released on DVD by Universal in 2004 as Clive Barker Presents Saint Sinner.

Question: I was overseas in China between 1999 and 2004 and saw what I think was an American movie dubbed into Chinese. It's about a duke and his servant; they're part of a Chicago museum exhibit and they come to life. They find out that the duke has a relative or someone in Chicago and end up living with the family. The husband can't stand them because they're so uncouth, but the good-natured wife tolerates them and the duke falls in love with her. In the end, the duke and his servant go back into the exhibit. It seems as though it would have been produced in the 1980s or early '90s. If you could help me, it would fulfill a lifelong journey of mine thanks! - Ruth

FlickChick: You saw the broad time-travel comedy Just Visiting (2001), writer-director Jean-Marie Poire's English-language remake of his own French box-office smash Les Visiteurs (1993). Jean Reno and Christian Clavier starred in both versions as a 12th-century knight and his squire who wind up flung far into the future, where their quaint ways and poor personal hygiene occasion a series of fish-out-of-water gags.

Anyone who worries that French comedy is all snooty and sophisticated can relax: Though the original version is a little more nuanced than the American remake, they're both broad, mainstream farces.

Question: I remember this old movie (1950s or '60s, I think). It was about a lady who took care of children throughout her life. When she was very old many of the children came to see her (at the end of the movie). I always thought it was So Big with Jane Wyman, but I looked up that movie online and So Big sounded totally different. I would love to buy a copy of the movie that I'm thinking of. Any idea of the name? Thanks. - Joan

FlickChick: Maybe Cheers for Miss Bishop? It's older than you recall - it was released in 1941 - and stars Martha Scott rather than Jane Wyman, but I see Wyman (click for a picture) and Scott as similar types.

Miss Bishop follows a small-town Midwestern woman from her collage graduation to old age, and while many of her dreams - travel, romance, adventure - never come to pass, she finds her niche teaching English to college freshmen. The film's conclusion - a testimonial dinner given by generations of Miss Bishop's students, all of whom attribute their success in life to her influence - is a classic tear-jerker.

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