Philipe Noiret did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a BAFTA, for portraying Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso.
Now it was actually rather easy for me to put Philippe Noiret in supporting here. The story of the film is firmly about the story of the boy. Yes he is not the lead either because he is played by three different actors who are given more or less the same screen time. I put them all in supporting because they all support each other and not one leads the film on his own. Noiret never leads the film either. Alfredo is always a supporting character in the purest sense of the word. Alfredo is always there supporting Toto. The story is never from his perspective, nor is it his story. When something happens to him is always put in context of how it affects Toto.
Noiret at the beginning of the film portrays Alfredo in a very to the point fashion. He is just the projectionist who is slightly tired by the local priest's constant censorship demands, as well as is bit annoyed by the young boy Toto who keeps asking questions about how he does his job exactly. Noiret handles this well because he portrays Alfredo not as a grumpy grouch in any way just more of how a normal person trying to do their job would react to such an overly inquisitive boy. The focus of the film though soon becomes the relationship between the boy and Alfredo as the boy is determined to try to find out all about Alfredo's job as a film projectionist.
Their growing friendship is very well done by Noiret as he portrays a growing warmth Alfredo takes the boy. He slowly stops telling the boy various things about film projection just to make him stop answering question, instead starts to honestly want to teach him. Noiret eases into the part of the caring part of a father figure who tries his best to help the boy in a natural fashion. He makes the relationship between Alfredo and the boy an endearing one that finds the heart of the situation without ever trying to force the situation. Their relationship grows between the two in a wholly honest way.
The relationship which is the core of the film is never a loud one through Noiret's portrayal. It makes sense for the boy to be more expressive, but Noiret does well in being very quiet as Alfredo creating the right dynamic between the two. After a tragic accident Alfredo is blinded and the Toto takes over as the projectionist in the town although still takes Alfredo's guidance. Noiret does very well in somehow downplaying even more so as the blind Alfredo. Alfredo though no longer guides Toto as a projectionist but instead encourages him to live his life to his fullest.
Noiret reserved portrayal of the wise Alfredo is very effective as he infuses the right poignancy into all of Alfredo's teachings. He always makes him a calm, encouraging presence, that works perfectly in making Alfredo the mentor he should be. He turns him into an endearing memorable character, that he leaves the proper impression that allows the influence of Alfredo in the last scenes, which he is not even in, to be as powerful as they should. I should say that I don't think I love this performance as so many seem to, but this is most certainly a strong performance by Philippe Noiret.