25 March 2010

Pinocchio

I always thought "Pinocchio" was an old fairy tale, I mean really old, and then Disney turned it into the animated-movie-I-will-never-ever-watch-again-because-it-scared-the-holy-bejeezus-out-of-me-when-I-was-3 so I avoided "Pinocchio" so I could sleep.  As it turns out, the original Pinocchio is a children's novel by Carlo Collodi, the first half initially serialized 1881-1883 and the full novel published in 1883.  Kat wanted to read it for our bookclub - especially the NYRB Classics edition with introduction by Umberto Eco.  Cool.

Pinocchio is not a long novel - approximately 160 pages - and being a story for children (more or less) it takes almost no time at all to read.  Once you sit down to read it.  This has a very Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson feel - the blue-haired Fairy with a coach drawn by mice and a poodle for a coachman, charlatan team the Fox and the Cat, Toyland - so it does feel like an old folk tale.  But it is also a very long parable (parable?  allegory?) - Pinocchio does learn many lessons, most memorable is learning not to lie, on his path to becoming a real boy.  One thing that struck me was Pinocchio's growing lack of gullibility; each time he is tempted off his path it takes more and more cajoling to get him to stray from the straight and narrow.  He learns but slowly; he is only a puppet, as Pinocchio himself likes to point out.

We watched the 2002 Roberto Benigni Pinocchio adaptation as our movie tie-in.  I am OK with this because it's not the Disney version.  According to the IMDB trivia the original idea for the 2002 Italian adaptation was to have Fellini direct with Benigni acting as the title role; Fellini died and Benigni continued the project as director and star.

Benigni should have gotten someone else to play Pinocchio, as in perhaps a teen or younger adult actor, because a 50-year-old man with a five-o'clock shadow playing a temper-tantrum-prone wooden puppet dressed like a Pollichinelle from The Nutcracker just does not work for me.  It actually got a little creepy during a scene (which, as far as I remember, does not exist in the book) where Pinocchio and Lucinolo (Lampwick) are licking a fish-shaped lollipop in turn....as in child porn creepy...and then the crazy Benigni antics got plain old irritating and boring.  The rest of the movie does work quite well, the sets and costumes have a very fairy-tale/fantasy feel (with the exception of a perspective issue during the puppet theatre show).  I do quite like Nicoletta Braschi as the Fairy with the Turquoise Hair (aka the Blue Fairy) and I think she did quite well to give some depth to what could have been a very flat character.  I did like the creature effect make-up to give the suggestion of a Fox and a Cat as a character but still see the human actor - much like real life where wily people are described as foxes, etc.  I wonder what Italian audiences thought of the film (I don't read Italian so any reviews I might dig up I wouldn't be able to read); I think it was a good choice to watch Benigni's Pinocchio for our bookclub, just to see a non-US adaptation, but it certainly isn't a movie I want to watch again.

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