“Pinocchio”, an essay in craftmanship exploring the roots of tradition

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After the visionary “The Tale of Tales” which explored the collection of fables by Giambattista Basile, Matteo Garrone returns to the roots of Italian fantasy novels and adapts Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio”, the universally known story of a puppet becoming alive and living a long sort of moral adventures. “Pinocchio” has never been an easy task to adapt: its fragmented narrative and huge display of minor characters have always made it difficult to realize a proper version and, if in the 70s, Director Luigi Comencini had a huge success with his long and star-studded miniseries, in 2002 Roberto Benigni miserably crashed all the credit acquired with “La vita è bella” with its colorful but soulless version.

Roberto Benigni returns here, after a long hiatus from cinema, as Pinocchio’s father, carpenter Geppetto, a lonely man, in desperate need to have a son to whom give all his love. It is a description very distant from the usually flamboyant and exhilarating features of the Tuscan  comedian, who works on subtraction to deliver a tender and meek character. But this is not the only surprise of the movie as Matteo Garrone’s main help in the screenwriting project turns out to be rogue comedian (and notorious loose cannon) Massimo Ceccherini, whose turn as the psychotic Fox makes a perfect use of his strong expressivity and huge rolling eyes.

Ceccherini and Garrone, Tuscany and Naples. For the first time, two of the main sources of material for the literary and cultural history of Italy are mixed together in a story whose meaning becomes even more universal. Garrone underlines his project to return back to the roots of manual artistry and craftmanship, limiting the use of CGI to the essential thanks to the astonishing prosthetic and make-up artistry by Mark Coulier (winner of two Academy Awards with “The Iron Lady” and “Grand Budapest Hotel”). “Pinocchio” is not a fairytale for children, it is dark and melancholic. But it is also a visionary challenge won by a director who’s not scared to rise the stakes of Italian cinema.

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