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At the Movies: Roberto Benigni crafts romantic charmer with `The Tiger and the Snow'

At the Movies: Roberto Benigni crafts romantic charmer with `The Tiger and the Snow'

Roberto Benigni bombed big time the last time out as director and star with his wretched live-action "Pinocchio," undermining much of the good will and credibility he built up with his Academy Award-winning hit "Life Is Beautiful."
Now he returns with the enchanting "The Tiger and the Snow," a film that features much of the trademark Benigni goofiness yet also is a story of surprisingly subtle emotion and restrained dignity.
In this oddball tale of a smitten man journeying from Italy to war-ravaged Iraq for the woman he worships, writer-director Benigni tones down his shtick to become more the authentically devoted lover than the bumbling clown.
There's plenty of the latter, though, for fans of the strange and often irksome figure of blithering, babbling energy that Benigni frequently presents on screen.
Benigni stars as Attilio, a poet and university teacher in Rome who conducts his classes with colorful, lyrical antics to press home his love of poetry and how and why it should move people.
Divorced, with a couple of adorable daughters, Attilio prances through the waking world obsessed with Vittoria (played by Benigni's wife and regular co-star, Nicoletta Braschi), a woman accustomed to giving him teasing, playful brush-offs.
At night, Attilio has bizarre wedding dreams of Vittoria, scenarios accompanied by the off-kilter vocals of an American singer (Tom Waits, Benigni's co-star in 1986's "Down by Law").
Then one day, Attilio gets terrible news from a friend, Iraqi poet Fuad (Jeno Reno). Vittoria, in Baghdad to work on a book about Fuad, has sustained a head wound from a bombing in the early stages of the U.S.-led war there and is not expected to live.
Usually the blithe and frivolous buffoon, Attilio is mobilized into a whirlwind of pragmatic action, managing to get to Baghdad that night and embarking on a Herculean scavenger hunt to find the drugs, nutrients and other supplies Vittoria needs to recover.
Benigni mostly plays the fool early on, but he gradually transforms Attilio into a very real, sweet, wise and rational soul. And he adds a surprising twist to Attilio and Vittoria's relationship that enriches the sentiment behind his deeds and sacrifices for his beloved.
"The Tiger and the Snow" shares many themes and ideas of "Life Is Beautiful," Benigni's unusual comic take on the Holocaust centered on a father who uses humor and unfailing optimism to shelter his son from the horrors of life in a concentration camp.
Benigni's Attilio shares that man's faith that the human spirit can triumph over the harshest adversity, though this time, his character seems more grounded in the prospect that a happy ending might not be waiting, despite his best efforts.
And like "Life Is Beautiful," "The Tiger and the Snow" incongruously offers sharp laughs and touches of tenderness amid moments of drama and danger.
It's a refreshing story of a man unfazed by the severity of the real world, even when he encounters the worst it can offer, a dauntless romantic who feels right to his marrow that love truly does conquer all.
"The Tiger and the Snow," distributed by Strand Releasing, runs 113 minutes. Three stars out of four.


Updated : 2021-04-13 22:50 GMT+08:00