Monday, 24 August 2020

Pinocchio (2019)

One of the great childhood delights I revisit when I can is the lovely Disney production of Pinocchio. I remember being taken to the cinema long before DVDs, VHS or even colour TV and being thoroughly entertained by the cartoon. I had no idea about the proper fairy tale and roots of the Italian story, until now. What a treat awaited me.

This is the 2019 live action (kind of) Italian film version which I saw with subtitles, which didn't detract from the enjoyment one bit - in fact, it added to the depth and roots of the story from rural Italy. I shall need to read it now to be sure, but it has become clear to me that Disney certainly meandered from the tale to some degree whist keeping the bones together.

I shall also need to watch the 2002 version of this film which starred and was directed by Roberto Benigni. He played Pinocchio in that older version and Geppetto in this one, so I have added the other to my watchlist. This is Roberto Benigni, the man at the heart of the fabulously funny and moving Life is Beautiful. If you haven't seen that, then do! He's a super talent who chooses film projects carefully (to ensure he has enough time for treading the boards in his one-man show) and who's last outing was in To Rome with Love, the fabulously funny Woody Allen film in 2012.

He doesn't have a huge role in this 2019 film but big enough to add his magic to the proceedings brought together by director Matteo Garrone, the man who fiendishly served us up another masterful dark fairy tale Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) in 2015. Again, if you haven't, do!

Pinocchio is a wooden boy, created by poverty-stricken carpenter Geppetto, who magically comes to life when he's been carved. What follows is a little wooden boy who most people around him try to encourage onto a worthy path, but some not. Pinocchio is happier to follow the path of fun, naughtiness and enjoyment over the boring knuckle-down-and-work one. This gets him into all sorts of trouble, he disappears off with some loathsome characters, Geppetto heads off to find him, Pinocchio ends up involved with a circus and fairground and generally loses his way until he comes to his senses, aided by a friendly fairy, and eventually finds Geppetto for a fairy tale ending. I'm sure you know the adventure.

One of the ways in which this is different to the Disney cartoon is that more of the characters around Pinocchio are half-human, half-animal. I shall have to read the book to get more about that. The make-up and costumes are gorgeous, as are the sets, and where animation is needed (like with the whale and tuna), it's a no-compromise low-budget-but-with-style version rather than any polished Disney affair, making it feel very much like a fairy tale book, whilst saving them money!

The exception to the above was Pinocchio himself and the make-up and animation relating to him was top-notch and smartly executed. He looked like wood convincingly but when he spoke and moved it didn't look difficult. Good sound effects support the cause whenever he was clogging around. He was played by Federico Ielapi, but I'm not sure how much of it was him and how much animation to be honest!

In some ways, this telling is a dark one with one scene frankly quite shocking (I won't spoil it for you) which made me wonder if this was really suitable for children. There are the messages which come through still though, you know - do what adults tell you to do because they know best and if you don't then you won't only hurt yourself but also those around you - don't tell lies or you'll get into bigger trouble - you know the stuff.

It's a beautiful film and the ending heart-warming of course. The beautiful imagery crafted for the end-credits and music adopted round things off in just the tone of the rest of this art-house take on the tale. A very different adaptation to the Disney one but a much deeper and satisfying one, beautifully constructed and produced. Don't let the fact that this is an Italian picture put you off. Consider that a bonus. Go see it.

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