Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Tiger and the Snow

La tigre e la neve; Comedy, Italy, 2005; D: Roberto Benigni, S: Roberto Benigni, Jean Reno, Nicoletta Braschi, Emilia Fox, Gianfranco Varetto, Chiara Pirri, Anna Pirri, Tom Waits

Rome, March 2003. Attilio is a cheerful and eccentric literature teacher who is late to pick up his two teenage daughters, Emilia and Rosa, to school. He is also in love with reporter Vittoria, his divorced wife, and tries unsuccessfully to conquer her heart. One night, as the Iraqi war starts, his friend Fuad calls him and informs him that Vittoria was injured and lies in Baghdad in a coma. Attilio gets there and brings her improvised medicine in the hospital, like glycerin. Since she still lies in a coma, he brings her food and nurtures her while Fuad commits suicide. She wakes up and they return to Italy.

After he made a comedy about the Holocaust and gained record praise, famous Italian comedian Roberto Benigni decided to pick another tricky subject, the Iraqi war: "Life is Beautiful" handled the heavy theme in a very heavy handed way, and "The Tiger and the Snow" is an even clumsier film that never quite figures what it wants to say. Actually, it seems that tricky subject was just hastily "glued" to the main story about the romance between Attilo and Vittoria in order to give it a more ambitious feeling. Because, once Attilo arrives in Baghdad, instead of the story really starting off, it suddenly stops: it seems it suffers from the "Stranded whale" syndrome because Benigni didn't know what to do with it. The viewers expect him to come up with a few genius scenes, but he slowly spends the time just to give silly and childish gags about his misadventures around the "Sleeping Beauty" plot where he tries to wake up Vittoria out of her coma, until we realize the whole film was just a one big missed opportunity. His dream about the talking kangaroo was also immature, but here and there Benigni still manages to come up with a few juicy satirical jokes, like when he holds a fly-swat and tells he found a "weapon of mass destruction", while his annoying childish behavior is so childish it actually becomes charming at moments.


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