Monday, May 10, 2004

Movie: I’m Not Scared (2004)

Based on Niccolo Ammaniti’s novel, one of the best-selling books in recent European history. Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano) and his family are spending the summer in the Italian countryside. At ten years old, he’s feeling the first stirrings of adolescence, staying up late to write stories, wandering away from the playmates that have been forced on him by circumstance. At an abandoned house he discovers a pit, inside of which is another ten-year old boy who believes that he’s dead. As the two boys bond, Michele pieces together the story of how his new friend came to be there.

Director Gabriele Salvatores, responsible for one of the most uninspired of ‘90s Oscar-winners in MEDITERRANEO, does an extraordinary job of capturing a child’s eye view of the world. Every adult looms mysteriously, including Michele’s exhausted mother and charming but distant father (Dino Abbrescia, a young Italian Anthony Hopkins wielding a cigarette holder). Salvatores and d.p. Italo Petriccione lay on a few too many shots of rippling wheat fields due to face the thresher, but they also uncannily recreate the quicksilver feeling of long summer afternoons when the grown-up world seems to forget that children exist. Cristiano is an enormously engaging young actor, devouring the world with curiosity. But the movie is made by the otherworldly Mattia Di Pierro as the sad little boy who calls Michele his “guardian angel.”

Seeing this and MAN ON FIRE only days apart made for an odd double-bill: kidnapping as seen from both sides. Odder still is the fact that the novel MAN ON FIRE is set in Italy during the same period.

Video: Stuck On You (2003)

For once the sweetness that has overwhelmed the last few Farrelly Brothers films feels like an integral part of the story. Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear play conjoined (not Siamese, thank you) twins trying to make a go of it in Hollywood. THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY may be funnier, but in some respects this is the Farrellys’ best movie. It’s certainly their most mature, if that word can be said to apply to them. The film is a detailed exploration of the long-term bond between brothers, a subject these two know something about. The movie loses steam toward the end, and the climax, a number from a musical version of BONNIE & CLYDE, seems out of place. But there’s a sight gag involving Kinnear and a park bench that’s worthy of Chaplin: simple, funny, and almost absurdly moving.

TV: King of the Hill

Johnny Depp scores as a Texas yoga guru. No surprise, really, because he’s got a voice for animation. His delivery of the line “I demand that you buy a tank top” is priceless.

Relying on their voices alone is a great way for actors to show off their chops. I gained a whole new respect for Jennifer Aniston after hearing her on this show and SOUTH PARK.