IL POSTINO (THE POSTMAN)
DIRECTOR: MICHAEL RADFORD
COUNTRY: FRENCH/ITALY 1995
CINEMATOGRAPHY: FRANCO DI GIACOMO
MUSIC: LUCO ENRIQUE BACALOV
CAST: Philippe Noiret, Massimo Troisi, Maria Grazia, Cucinotta, Renato Scarpa, Linda Moretti, Sergio Solli
SUPER FEATURES: The acting eats you apart...
Without being pushy, and without saying much of anything, this film stands out as a magnificent achievement in directing and acting. Few films will ever stand out in your imagination as much as this one does, with such a wonderful story, though sad, but so very strong that it just hits you like the wind. This, unlike most films, is really, in the Godard'ian sense, a "poetic" film, rather than a film about a story that happens to have a poem.
It is the story of a poet that has been exiled in his original country, Chile, and he has been given asylum in Italy. But Italy's political situation is not clear, and Pablo Neruda, was often accused of being a communist, rather than a poet that lived his words. So he is given a place, out in the middle of nowhere, where there is no media, and very little brouhaha for him to attract any attention. Authorities often hope that the writer kinda fades away, but leaves behind some of the writing.
And in this old, run down place, that still has no running water, no jobs for anyone except fishing, takes to its famous person, through a young man that has been hired by the local post office just so that he can bike up the mountain to deliver the mail to the poet. And there, in time, they become friends, or at least, as far as the postman is concerned a valuable friend.
As the story develops, the postman finally gets a chance to meet someone he is in love with, Beatrice. And the story really starts. The postman, becomes a bit of a poet himself, although his words are not exactly as good metaphors as the poet's own work. It works anyway, despite the mother's agitated concerns that the words are obscene. She takes the words to the local priest, who declares it a poem, but does not say much else. He is convinced that communists eat babies and hate religion. Even when he sees the poet in his own church... the scene is slipped by rather quickly... nice touch.
The postman and the girl finally marry. And the poet gets his exile revoked in Chile and he is off to his homeland.
From here on, the story takes on really different proportions. While the poet is here the words and the metaphors help enliven the place. As soon as he is gone, the local politicians take over with lies. One promises to build up the water system, and starts the program until the day he gets elected, at which point the construction stops. He doesn't need the vote anymore. He is in. It's a good thing, because the poet would have definitely said something if he had seen this.
And in the end, we find that the postman, who has not received any letters from the poet, creates a "live" poem for Pablo Neruda. It involves many of the wonderful sounds that the place has, that one can hear at any time, from the wind, to the waves, to the fishing nets.
One day, Pablo returns with his wife. The postman died. The wife was left with a boy named Pablito after the poet, and a tape of the "live" poem that the postman. The postman had remarked many times that he is not famous and that there was no reason for the poet to remember him. But he has made a larger impression on everyone else. It seems that the postman fainted and dies at the demonstration that would have been his crowing success. What has become a "communist" party, mainly a direct opposition to the corrupt officials, like the one that promised something and then stopped it when he got elected, is having a celebration, and they intend to have the poet's work read by the postman, who has become a bit of a well known man. Unfortunately, the politicians do not like "anti-government" activities, and they unleash the police on the crowd and the postman is one of the victims.
Few films have the beauty, the desire, the care, to create such a strong story and bring it to the forefront. And the two people that make it work are Massimo Troisi as the postman, and Philippe Noiret as the poet. Even the lines are read so beautifully that when we hear at the end of the video tape an ad for a few actors doing the poetry, only one (Wesley Snipes) comes off as good as the film's rendition of the lines of Neruda's work.
It is a treat to see something like this, and that Massimo Troisi was even nominated for an Oscar for this role, is an incredible compliment to the director's vision, and his work with the two lead actors. One wishes that there were more.... and hopes for more, and the ending just leaves you in tears.
But few films show you what the power and beauty of words can be. It doesn't matter that anyone can tell you about anything in this film. The true story is the words, and how they live. The film just floats on the words. It may be considered a "bit talky" but it is never boring, and never out of context, or away from the real point it needs to make. But one can easily see, that this film has nothing to do with communist at all... it's about poetry, and those who embrace the poetic muse for the love of the words and the purity of feeling.
This film is second to none in this department. Excellent work all around.
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