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Live action Italian Pinocchio opens on Sunday afternoon with soggy red carpet gala


L-R: Mariette Rissenbeek, Roberto Begnini, Carlo Chatrian, director Matteo Garrone, and child star Federico Ielapi, who portrays the wooden puppet in the picture.

Sunday 23 February, Festival Day 4

In spite of horrid cold and rainy weather the Sunday afternoon opening of the Italian live action Pinocchio with Oscar winning comic  Roberto Benigni as Gepetto has been the event of the week so far.  

The entire cast and director Matteo Garrone were on hand on the carpet extensively, then on stage for a twenty minute round of introductions  hosted by non other than new festival artistic director, Carlo Chatrian, who is himself Italian. An expectant audience ate the picture up and applauded extensively at the end.  Even throughout the seemingly endless screenfuls of end credits.  Child actor Federico Ielapi was most appealing as the titular wooden boy hero who will eventually become flesh, definitely won hearts and minds wearing heavy wooden makeup and a red dunce cap throughout.  This lad will only be ten in July and is unquestionably a bambino of talent and charisma.  Since his facial muscles were immobile under the wooden maquillage  he had to act mainly with his eyes, which he dud like a thoroughbred veteran.

As for myself, upon whose brain the Walt Disney cartoon Pinocchio is indelibly inscribed, I became less and less convinced by the standard characters as they were introduced, and more and more disturbed by the  some of the uglier ones, particularly the vile duo Cat and Fox one blind the other lame, who repeatedly surface to prey upon Pinocchio's infinite naiveté, at one point literally trying to lynch him by stringing  him up in a tree.  When Pinocchio, who has been turned into a donkey and dumped into the sea attached to a heavy stone Mafia style, not only survives and recovers but is somehow changed back into a living puppet down in the murky depths -- then swims merrily  away -- well, at that point I gave up.  But then, when he gets swallowed by a whale like denizen of the deep and therein finds his long lost Babbo, Gepetto, while a captured Tunafish helps him fight off digestion, here I began longing for Walt Disney's more wholesome whale of a whale. Gepetto,(Begnini)  delighted to have refound  his wooden son would have him settle down with him here inside the belly of the Behemoth. But no, days Pinocchio, we gotta get outta here -- next time this monsters opens his toothy yap. But, I can't swim, Gepetto complains.  No problem, counters Pinocke -- since I'm made of wood I can easily float until we reach shore. Just climb on my back -- and out they plop into the beckoning sea.  After all these nightmarish misadventures, back in the Tuscan home village  Pinocchio's beautiful fairy godmother (One of the few people in the film who is not ugly or grotesque) shows up and Rewards him for being good in school by changing him into a real live flesh and blood bambino. Pinocchio then comes rushing out of the field where this transfiguration took place to announce his incarnation to Gepetto, where the picture is finally out of its extended misery as father and now fleshy son embrace. 

With all due respect to the hardy filmmakers for their cinematic skills I can only say that when it finally ended I felt like I had been put through a wringer of nightmares and, worst if all --  I felt like Pinocchio looked a whole lit better with his cracky wooden face than with his unwooden one at the end. 

Bottom Line:  Please reissue the original Disney version!


Federico Ielapi is the reincarnation of Pinocchio in the flesh


Alex Castillo de Leone,

Berlin, 23 February

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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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