Pinocchio

The Fairy with the Turquoise Hair and Pinocchio with long nose

To the question: Is there a canonical Pinocchio I can enjoy in movie form, the answer is “Yes, this one by Matteo Garrone”. It takes Carlo Collodi’s story back to its origins – it’s about a lump of magic wood being carved into a talking puppet by poor woodcarver Gepetto, and then the puppet setting out on a string of adventures all the while wishing he could make the next fantastical leap and become a real boy.

There is no shortage of competition, from a 1911 silent version, through the Disney’s 1940 version to countless others, like the 1957 one starring Mickey Rooney or the 2002 one directed by and starring Roberto Benigni, not to mention 1971’s The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio. Tagline: “It’s not his nose that grows.”

Benigni also turns up in Garrone’s version, as Gepetto – Pinocchio’s dad, in effect – and though he’s ideal casting as the fiercely proud but punishingly poor father wishing all the good things for his son, Benigni leaves the story early on after Pinocchio is kidnapped by the puppetmaster Mangiafuoco.

This sets Pinocchio (Federico Ielapi) off on his adventure in fits and starts, with the Fox and the Cat and the Fairy with the Turquoise Hair (Marine Vacth) the most notable characters met on the way through a journey which is, fairy tale stuff stripped away, really a story about relentless child abuse. Pinocchio is stolen, swindled, hanged, turned into a donkey, drowned… and on it goes.

There’s a fantasical and creepy Alice in Wonderland aspect to the story, and Collodi wrote his story around the same time in the mid 19th century. Like Alice it was also first published in instalments, which helps explain the highly episodic nature of the plot.

Fox, Pinocchio and Cat
Nothing shifty about the Fox and the Cat



Garrone dresses it all in a grungey picturesque look – this is a careful blending of the real, the prosthetic and the digitally enhanced. It’s a dark story, as these European tales often are (even Disney’s version is pretty dark), but Garrone gives it a specifically Italian flavour with the use of evocative locations, and conjures up a picture of the Italian rural past. If he’s trying to drag the European fairytale centre of gravity away from the North – from the Grimms and Hans Christian Andersen – he’s succeeding, as he did in a previous excursion into the fairytale, 2015’s Tale of Tales. Meanwhile, Dario Marianelli’s ceaselessly whimsical soundtrack also gives the impression of trying to drag the film away from the dark side.

Picaresque stories have no plot, and the only real complaint about this Pinocchio is that it is a one-damn-thing-after-another experience, though there is a bit of a throughline thanks to the Fox and the Cat, a pair of chiselling chancers played brilliantly by Rocco Papaleo and Massimo Ceccherini, their faces laden with knavery and low cunning, and the film’s best performances.

If your only experience of the story is the Disney version, the diminished role for the talking cricket (Davide Marotta) might cause some concern, and he’s not called Jiminy either, but rest assured Pinocchio’s nose does grow to massive proportions in the lying sequence.

Garrone is not trying to upset the apple cart, he’s trying to honour the story and produce the definitive version of it. Whether it is going to be able to withstand the onslaught in 2022 by two more versions of Pinocchio from two titans of cinema is going to be interesting to watch. Guillermo Del Toro’s is animated and has Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton and Ron Perlman in the voice cast. Whereas Robert Zemeckis is directing Disney’s update on its own 1940 property, complete with a cricket called Jiminy. Let battle commence.





Pinocchio – Watch it/buy it at Amazon



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© Steve Morrissey 2021









4 November 2013-11-04

James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride in This Is the End

Out in the UK This Week

 

 

This Is the End (Sony, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Armageddon, aka The Rapture, arrives at a big Hollywood party thrown by James Franco in an in-jokey comedy whose USP is that everyone involved plays a version of themselves. The big names are Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and James Franco (natch), with Jay Baruchel as our entry point, playing the sort of Jay Baruchel who is slightly intimidated by the bigger stars. Cameos are the big thing there – Rihanna pops in for a minute, Michael Cera has fun with his image as a total dude being fellated and rimmed simultaneously by a pair of babes while doing a monster line of coke. But that’s the party bit, the fun bit. Once the actual end of the world arrives things cool down a bit, the joke starts to wear thin and we start looking around for actual comedy, rather than in-jokes. There is some, thanks to Danny McBride and Craig Robinson (probably the best thing on display) providing most of it. I forgot to mention that Emma Watson does a similar thing to Cera, playing off her good girl Harry Potter image. So, yes, it’s a Wayans brothers movie, more or less, give or take.

This Is the End – at Amazon

 

Camp 14: Total Control Zone (Kaleidoscope, cert 15, DVD)

There really isn’t much to see in this documentary, and its makers know it, hence the animated inserts they use to liven up the tale told by Shin Dong-Hyuk, a North Korean who had the misfortune to be born and raised in a labour camp, until he made a break for it. Not that the story itself needs titivating – it is a jaw-to-the-floor tale of deprivation, unusual and cruel punishment, plus a devotion to a wonky ideology that saw, for example, Shin shopping his mother and brother to the camp authorities for talking about escape. What happened to them I won’t detail here, because it forms the centrepiece of a story of quite remarkable unpleasantness. Intercut with Shin’s story is the testimony of two former functionaries, one an administrative official, the other a guard who delighted in hurting people – “Why did I behave that way? I was 21, 22, I had stars on my shoulders… and a gun… if I didn’t like someone I just shot them.” Like I say, jaw-to-the-floor stuff.

Camp 14: Total Control Zone – at Amazon

 

 

The Night of the Hunter (Arrow, cert 12, Blu-ray)

Here’s the blu-ray debut of the only film ever directed by Charles Laughton. The only film not just because Laughton was a terrible drunk but because it was a terrible flop and Laughton was broken by the reception it got. Critics seem to have trouble placing Night of the Hunter but in genre terms it is not unadjacent to Southern Gothic – men of questionable sexuality, women taut with unsatisfied urges, innocent children and Christianity seen from the dark side. Telling the story of two children who know the whereabouts of their dead father’s ill-gotten loot, it hands Robert Mitchum one of the roles of his career, as the preacher with Love and Hate tattooed onto the fingers of each hand, an ex-jailbird determined to wring the location of the money from the children he has now become stepfather to. Onto this basic story Laughton and writer James Agee (though how much of his script is in the finished work is hotly disputed) tack all manner of folksy Mark Twain-esque touches, dreamy expressionism, and the famous nightmare slo-motion chase along the riverbank that’s once seen but never forgotten. This is a film with standout shots (thanks to Stanley Cortez, who worked with Orson Welles) memorable dialogue, instances of remarkable acting (Shelley Winters vibrating with lust) but it sticks in the memory most because of the off-key tone it sets, the mood it creates. It is a classic.

The restoration… to come

The Night of the Hunter – at Amazon 

 

 

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (StudioCanal, cert 12, DVD)

Haewon (Jeong Eun-Chae), the girl at the centre of this odd offbeat drama is somebody’s daughter. In fact we meet her mother early on, just after we’ve witnessed Haewon bumping into Jane Birkin on the street, in a cameo that must rank as one cinema’s more unusual, because it’s so pointless. Though is it? Because we’re then treated to a story about a beautiful girl being handed life on a plate and still not being that happy about everything – the wannabe actress/model Haewon is having an affair with a teacher/director, though he’s not easy about declaring their relationship publicly. No matter, Haewon is beautiful, and has soon found another suitor, a Korean now installed as a professor at an American university. Composed largely of Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight walkie talkie shots, with various South Korean landmarks acting as backdrop, this is an intensely verbal film yet features one extended sequence of protracted social embarrassment in a cheap eatery that makes the film worth hunting out. As for the rest of it, it’s certainly an unusual theme, but I’m not convinced the film has that much to say about it.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon – at Amazon 

 

Pinocchio (Koch, cert U, DVD)

Does the world need another Pinocchio? Maybe not, but this is an Italian version (revoiced in English) and Pinocchio is an Italian story, so why not. If you’ve seen the Disney Pinocchio, this covers much of the same territory, plus a whole other lot, at breathless speed. So one minute Pinocchio is being carved from a talking lump of wood, the next he’s a rascally marionette, the next he’s meeting a talking cricket, consorting with circus folk, in school, in jail, being bilked by a wolf, with a dog, flying on a pigeon’s back. It’s exhausting, though if you have ADHD you might keep up. And the same goes for the animation, which is really excellent, though it does keep changing styles to match the various changes of plotline – some Disney, some Ghibli, some Expressionism, some Yellow Submarine psychedelia, a bit of Marvel, and on it goes. And I didn’t even mention the songs, which are bouncy and really rather good. Does it form a cohesive whole? No, of course it doesn’t.

Pinocchio – at Amazon

 

 

Bula Quo! (Universal, cert PG, Blu-ray/DVD)

Status Quo have been cranking out their three-chord boogie for longer than most people care, yet this is their first film, made long after their heyday and clearly aware of the fact, hence its many jokes at the expense of Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt’s extreme age. So, Quo in Fiji, in a plot that is familiar if you’ve ever seen the terrible Morecambe and Wise film That Riviera Touch (hapless Brits entirely out of their depth away from their country involved with men who are not only dastardly criminals but foreigners). Jon Lovitz plays the baddie killing people for fun at Russian Roulette parties, Craig Fairbrass is the guys’ minder/tour manager, so at least there are two people on hand to do some proper acting, something you could never accuse Parfitt and Rossi of managing. Three if we include Laura Aikman, who is not just pretty but pretty good at playing the new girl hired to… I’m not even that sure. Aikman is the proverbial breath of fresh air in a film that threatens to grind to a halt every ten minutes or so, between scenes of Quo doing their live set, Quo running from bad guys, Quo trading funny quips. “It’s a bomb”, says one, motioning to a ticking timebomb disguised as a doll. “It’s a doll,” says the other, apparently contradictorily. “It’s a blow-up doll,” they say together, scarpering. I laughed. It’s that sort of film.

Bula Quo – at Amazon

 

 

Weekend of a Champion (Universal, cert PG, DVD)

We’ve had Senna, we’ve had Rush, both big successes. So how about a documentary about Jackie Stewart at the 1971 Grand Prix in Monte Carlo? Shot at the time by Frank Simon, it shows us Stewart driving his mate Roman Polanski around the track, then going on to win the race the next day. For F1 nuts there is probably something to be gleaned from Stewart’s analysis of the track, and what gear he’ll be selecting as he takes this corner or that. And nostaligiacs might get a warm fuzzy glow watching Stewart and his wife walking like royalty down towards the pits in 1971 – the thing about F1 in the 1970s is that it was all very glam, because deadly. Tacked on to the end of the original documentary is a shortish conversation between Stewart and Polanski filmed in Cannes this year. They’re still friends and it’s Polanski who pushes Stewart into talking about how much effort he put into getting F1 to start valuing drivers’ lives. The 60s and 70s were “when motor racing was dangerous and sex was safe” is how Stewart says older drivers ruefully describe those days. After that, the two guys drive once again round the track, as they did in 1971, noting the changes the decades have made. And in between the amiable banter and the purr of the engine, you can definitely detect the sound of padding being applied to bulk this enterprise up to its 80 short minutes.

Weekend of a Champion – at Amazon

 

 

9 March 2009-03-09

Walt Disney's Pinocchio

Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt)

Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney, cert U)

From the days when the voice cast went uncredited, Walt Disney’s 1940 follow-up to Snow White gave us the Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, a wooden boy with a Freudian nose and one of the studio’s darkest and finest animations.

Pinocchio – at Amazon

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Disney, cert 12)

The Holocaust through the eyes of a nice German lad (Asa Butterfield) whose dad just happens to be a death camp commandant. The everyday normality of the death camps and the mix of the sentimental, the melodramatic and the brutally direct often jars for the wrong and the right reasons.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – at Amazon

Quarantine (sony, cert 18)

A fluffy TV reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) lucks into the biggest story of her career by accident as a TV news crew is trapped inside a zombie house. Aficionados will recognise this as a scene for scene, stroke for stroke English language remake of Spanish horror [REC]. How wise not to change a thing.

Quarantine – at Amazon

Generation Kill (HBO, cert 15)

Into the bafflingly busy Iraq War with an embedded Rolling Stone reporter in this multi-stranded, vibrant 7-part TV series adapted from journalist Evan Wright’s book and brought to the screen by the team behind The Wire. Another triumph.

Generation Kill – at Amazon

LA Confidential Special Edition (Warner, cert 18)

One of director Curtis Hanson’s sweet run of great films in the 1990s and one of the must-watch movies of 1997. Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey play cops up to the oxters in celebrity sleaze – hello Kim Basinger in Veronica Lake pose – in this lush, noirish evocation of the tawdry 1950s.

LA Confidential – at Amazon

The Rocker (Fox, cert 12)

Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo keeps it feelgood in this harmless comedy about an old and rubbish rock drummer 20 past his sell-by joining a young band. Yes, it’s a School of Rock knock-off, and yes Rainn Wilson is working his way through Jack Black’s list of buffoonery and goofery.

The Rocker – at Amazon


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Momentum, cert PG)

Frances McDormand joins a crack team of British thespians (Stephanie Cole, Shirley Henderson, Mark Strong) to demonstrate how to strangle the English accent in a flimsy wannabe screwball comedy set between the wars and stolen comprehensively by Amy Adams.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – at Amazon


3-Day Weekend (TLA, cert 15)

Following on from last year’s Back Soon, Rob Williams’s state-of-the-gay-nation outing sees eight men hopping beds and baring souls for a weekend in a drama avoiding waspish stereotypes as it follows its central relationship into meltdown. Warning: may contain nuts.

3-Day Weekend – at Amazon

The Gene Generation (High Fliers, cert 15)

Chaotic throwback to cyberpunk 1980s – 2000AD comic, Brazil and Blade Runner – with a physically impressive if wooden Bai Ling as a ninja she-assassin. Quite what Faye Dunaway is doing here is a mystery.

The Gene Generation – at Amazon

Saw V (Lionsgate, cert 18)

Directed by Saw 1-4’s set dresser – a franchise this established will eventually direct itself – the gorno franchise finally runs out of wit, though the early DIY tracheotomy scene catches the breath and proves there’s still some ingenuity left in the tank, unpleasant though it is.

Saw V – at Amazon

Repo! The Genetic Opera (Lions Gate, cert 18)

Talking of which, here’s what Saw II, III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman’s been up to, a tin-eared Rocky Horror-ish trash-glam musical on nitrous. Motley crew Alexa Vega, Paris Hilton, Sarah Brightman, Anthony Stewart Head and Paul Sorvino make it oddity of the week.

Repo! The Genetic Opera – at Amazon

The Lodger (Sony, cert 15)

Based on the same novel Hitchcock made into his 1927 silent classic, a lumpen Ripper tale set in LA, starring a wasted Alfred Molina as detective and Hope Davis as lonely housewife who let out a room to a mystery man (Simon West) who might be a killer.

The Lodger – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2009