What’s it about?
When a wooden puppet is brought to life he must find his way in a world of strange creatures, with dangers at every turn. Acclaimed director Matteo Garrone turns his hand to the classic story of Pinocchio and creates the best version since Disney’s take in 1940. This dark treat for older children and adults alike is an exquisite piece of work, but contains a few tough moments that may not be suitable for the under 8s.
Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) is one of the most internationally famous works of Italian literature. At its heart a morality tale on the importance of filial duty and the dangers of the wider world, it’s a very Italian story. Trust your family and beware of the Fox and the Cat; and almost everybody else.
Of innumerable adaptations, the most famous are Walt Disney’s 1940 cartoon and Luigi Comencini’s television miniseries in 1972, with Nino Manfredi, Gina Lollobrigida and Vittorio De Sica. More recently, Roberto Benigni directed and starred in his own take, which suffered from his decision to cast himself – at the age of 50 – in the title role. A live action Disney remake to be directed by Guillermo del Toro is slated for 2021.
Elbowing into this crowded field comes Matteo Garrone’s Pinocchio, a beautiful and cleverly crafted piece which manages to be a faithful return to Collodi’s original tale and very much the director’s own take. Opening with a familiar scene, Geppetto (Roberto Benigni), the humble wood carver, sits at his work table, chisel in hand. However, rather than carving a puppet, he is chipping at a rind of cheese to free the last edible crumbs.
Garrone subtly shifts the moral weight of Collodi’s tale. Yes, Pinocchio is a naive and careless child, but the world is a hostile bestiary. Not only are there villains like the Cat (Rocco Papaleo) and the Fox (co-screenwriter Massimo Ceccherini), but the gorilla judge (Teco Celio) frees the guilty and imprisons the innocent and the teacher beats his students. It’s all very well saying children must go to school, but with schools like these, you can see why they play truant. In such an arbitrary and cruel world, loving and looking after each other is not only a moral truism, but a survival strategy.
Nicolai Brüel’s cinematography seamlessly moves between the mundane crumbling poverty of a wintry Italian countryside and the more magical elements of the tale. For the most part favouring practical over digital effects, the make-up by Mark Coulier is brilliantly achieved, inspired by the original illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti. Pinocchio is convincingly wooden but Federico Ielapi’s performance is natural and fluid.
The cast boasts a host of familiar faces from Italian cinema but Benigni shines particularly as the emotional core of the film. A far cry from the anarchic energy of Down by Law (1986) and his Oscar acceptance speeches, this is a performance of subtle humour and pathos, a poor man who sacrifices everything for his son. For Garrone, Pinocchio is not about a puppet who wants to be a real boy so much as a poor man who wants to be a good father.
John Bleasdale, Sight & Sound, October 2020
Director: Matteo Garrone
©: Archimede Srl, Le Pacte Sas
Produced by: Archimede
Produced with: Rai Cinema, Le Pacte
With: Recorded Picture Company
In collaboration with: Leone Film Group
In association with: BPER Banca
Presented by: Archimede S.r.l., Rai Cinema, Jeremy Thomas
Produced by: Matteo Garrone, Jean Labadie, Anne-Laure Labadie, Jeremy Thomas, Paolo Del Brocco
Screenplay: Matteo Garrone, Massimo Ceccherini
Based on the story by: Carlo Collodi
Director of Photography: Nicolaj Brüel
Visual Effects: One of Us, Chromatica
Editor: Marco Spoletini
Production Designer: Dimitri Capuani
Costume Designer: Massimo Cantini Parrini
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Conducted by: Dario Marianelli
Production Sound Mixer: Maricetta Lombardo
Roberto Benigni (Geppetto)
Federico Ielapi (Pinocchio)
Gigi Proietti (fire eater)
Rocco Papaleo (cat)
Massimo Ceccherini (wolf)
Marine Vacth (fairy)
Alida Baldari Calabria (young fairy)
Maria Pia Timo (snail)
Massimiliano Gallo (crow)
Gianfranco Gallo (owl)
Davide Marotta (cricket)
Teco Celio (judge)
Enzo Vetrano (schoolmaster)
Alessio Di Domenicantonio (Lampwick)
Nino Scardina (coachman)
Ernest and Celestine
Sat 1 Aug 12:00; Sat 7 Aug 15:10; Tue 31 Aug 14:15
Earwig and the Witch
Tue 3 – Tue 24 Aug
The Watcher in the Woods
Sun 22 Aug 13:00; Sun 29 Aug 12:40
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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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