Selasa, 03 Mei 2011

Maurizio Nichetti - Ladri di saponette aka The Icicle Thief (1989)

Some comments from Amazon:

This fascinating Italian film (with English subtitles) by Maurizio Nichetti works on several levels at once--and is extremely funny on all of them. At heart, it's a satire of the kind of neorealism of such films as The Bicycle Thief, which it spoofs. But it also makes fun of the TV-centered society in Italy, as families gather around their TVs to watch Nichetti's takeoff on The Bicycle Thief, complete with hilarious commercial breaks. The film within a film is a spot-on black-and-white takeoff that begins to go distinctly wrong when a woman from one of the TV commercials is accidentally plopped in the middle of the film (which is about a man who is disgraced when he steals a chandelier from the chandelier factory in order to feed his family). The film is clever and visually arresting; its central effect--the Technicolor woman in the middle of the monochromatic movie--is commonplace in TV commercials now but was considered startling when this film came out. --Marshall Fine

This offbeat Italian comedy uses the familiar black and white/color dichotomy to indicate different worlds, a technique always in danger of being overdone. Last time I saw it was in Hollywood's Pleasantville (1998) where it was so cloying it annoyed; the first time magically in The Wizard of Oz (1939). It was even done (to good effect) in Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993). Here the "film" is in black and white (as it's being shown on TV) and the commercials are in color. The characters bizarrely go from one "world" to the other while somewhere in between is the "real" world of TV viewers. Because the world of TV commercials is the more fantastic, I think the technique works well here.
Maurizio Nichetti, who might (and might not) remind you of Roberto Benigni, stars as Anotonio Piermattei, the icicle thief, the protagonist of the movie within a movie, which is a Bicycle Thief-like tragic film that the TV people manage to mangle into a TV-like romantic comedy. (If you're wondering how one can be an icicle thief, keep wondering. I'll never tell.) Nichetti also plays the auteur of the film being shown on TV who is invited to be interviewed but never gets to speak partly because the film critic who is to do the interview thinks they are viewing a different film.

The title notwithstanding, this is not a satire or a "spoof" of Vittorio De Sica's internationally acclaimed The Bicycle Thief (1948), although De Sica himself might be seen as being lightly satirized. Nichetti's The Icicle Thief is more like an identification as it attempts to stand with the art film solidly against commercialism. However any similarity between the film within a film here and De Sica's masterpiece is sycophantic. This is not to say that The Icicle Thief does not have its moments and its charm. It does.

Caterina Sylos Labini who plays Maria, Antonio Piermattei's singing wife, is charming as the archetypical Italian femme fatale, a dark, lusty, earthy woman who can cry and laugh at the drop of a hat. She is contrasted with Heidi Komarck, a colorized blonde model in a butch haircut who does TV commercials. Komarck looks like a member of the Swedish ski team draped in a lingerie outfit that leaves little to the imagination while speaking only American English. My favorite part of the film was the cute shtick with Maria's happy one-year-old daughter who crawls continually into mischief (grabbing a knife by the blade, putting an electric wire in her mouth, etc.) but somehow never has to shed a tear.

That this is a satire and spoof of TV (and not De Sica's Bicycle Thief or old-time neo-realism itself) is immediately apparent when the TV film critic has to ask the name of the film he is critiquing. On TV the only things that really matter are the commercials. So, to the extent that a "Big Big" candy bar jingle and a laundry detergent superhero triumph over a black and white neo-realistic film, we can see that triumph as a satire of television and its middle-brow audience.


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