Carlo Collodi’s classic story Pinocchio has been adapted in varied ways over the years since it was first published in 1880 in a newspaper for children. Combining his previous work as a political journalist and satirist, with his translation of Charles Perrault’s folk tales, Collodi tells the tale of a wooden puppet, who wants to become a real boy.
Most people are aware of the 1940 Disney animated version of the story, which, like all Disney productions, sugar-coated the story. Italian director Matteo Garrone reclaims all the darkness and social commentary in his live-action retelling.
Quite simply, this is a masterpiece.
Starring as Pinocchio is child-actor Federico Ielapi, who turns in the kind of subtle, measured and heart-breaking performance many adult actors can only aspire to. The great Roberto Benigni stars opposite Ielapi as Geppetto, the lonely, poverty-stricken wood carver, who makes himself a puppet-son.
French actor Marine Vacth illuminates the screen as Fata Turchina (the fairy), along with delightful child-actor Alida Baldari Calabria playing the bambino version of Turchina.
With all roles played by human actors, the make-up department was worked overtime. Special mention goes to Jessica Brooks for special makeup effects, and Sebastian Lochmann, key prosthetic sculptor for the character of Pinocchio. Lush production design by Dimitri Capuani, and art direction by Francesco Sereni have ensured that this film is a constant delight to the eye. Yet unlike many films of this genre, nothing is done simply for the sake of visuals: every aspect plays a vital role in the narrative, and adds to the richness. Kudos too, to Paolo Amici and his team in the sound department. Every little knock of one wooden puppet against another is heard.
Despite being two hours long, Pinocchio rollicks along at a fast pace. It is equal parts dark, funny, dramatic, silly, breathtaking, and utterly, surprisingly, moving. Possibly not suitable for very young children, as there are some distressing scenes, any child over the age of about ten should love this. As should any adult who cares about great filmmaking.
One of the best films of the year, in any language, this is surely a major award contender, and set to become a classic in the canon of story-book cinema.
Pinocchio is currently screening as part of the ST. Ali Italian Film Festival at Palace Nova Cinemas.
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