CINEMA PARADISO, PG, 1990, 121 minutes, HBO Video, $92.99.
There are films as lovely, but none lovelier than ``Cinema Paradiso,' a folkloric salute to the medium itself, flickering with yesterday's innocence and lingering on the mind like bubbles in wine.Born of writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore's childhood memories, this is a magic lantern in a Sicilian boy's hand, its warm light shed on the riches of life in a poor, stone-built land. Philippe Noiret, the sagacious French actor, plays the mentor, Alfredo, in this life story of Salvatore ``Toto' Di Vito, a director manque depicted as a child by Salvatore Cascio and as a grown-up by Jacques Perrin.
Salvatore is returning to Giancaldo after an absence of 30 years when the recollections come upon him, an irresistible tumble of warm, funny, bittersweet vignettes as sly as one of Alfredo's winks. Toto is a silver fox these days, but his younger self is an olive-skinned little scamp with Clark Gable ears and great chocolate eyes that open wider than the screen full of miracles at the neighborhood Cinema Paradiso. The kindhearted, craggy Alfredo is its projectionist, the spinner of myth and the giver of a hard-won wisdom, full of Italian fatalism and rough fatherly love.\
THE STORY OF WOMEN, Unrated, 1988, 110 minutes, subtitled, New Yorker Video, $79.95.
Claude Chabrol's ``Story of Women' stays rigorously within itself. It's a concentrated, disciplined, dry work about a woman in a small French village who, during the Occupation, begins to perform abortions, at first merely to help a friend, then later as a business venture. Marie (Isabelle Huppert) is a humorless, dourly practical woman who, while her husband is serving at the front, supports herself, her son and her daughter by taking in knitting.
Despite its ambitious title, ``Story of Women' does not expand to its full metaphorical height. It remains one woman's story, intelligent and efficient and moving.\