The Tiger and the Snow
2005Director: Roberto Benigni
Cast: Roberto Benigni, Jean Reno, Nicholetta Braschi
uyer’s remorse. We don’t often associate consumer vocabulary with experiential vocabulary, but that’s the consequence of time = money in our voyeur/commodity fetish, mortal lives. Normally, the paragraph would start “I’m sorry but…”, except that the only thing I’m sorry about is that this film was so poor, that I’m a bit poorer for it and that I wasted my time going to see it. Porca miseria. I assume my fiduciary responsibility to you, the reader, in order to avoid you having the same regrets—which, of course, robs Roberto Benigni of cash—but better him than you (it’s too late for me.) I considered writing “Great acting, bad movie” 200 times for the word count, but I also assume the responsibility of telling you why La Tigre e la neve is so weak and thought better of the Warholian prank on my editor, which would have been motivated by guilt and laziness anyway. Guilt because I love Benigni (and I’m depressed I have to keep panning films by people I really like and admire) and laziness because I’d prefer to write about good films NOT trash bad ones. Hence, the remorse…
Roberto Benigni plays Attilio de Giovanni, a divorced Italian poetry professor in love with the luscious Vittoria (Nicholetta Braschi, Benigni’s real-life wife), a colleague of an Iraqi poet exiled in France, Fuad (Jean Reno), who also happens to be a great friend of Attilio’s. So far, so good : an intriguing international set-up ; actors we know from experience to be talented, risk-taking; and the promise of a poetic/political spin. The war breaks out in Iraq, however, Fuad can now go home, Vittoria follows him, is wounded in an explosion, close to death because of lack of proper medical treatment and supplies, Fuad informs Attilio and… welcome to Life is Beautiful, the Sequel.
You saw the film, now see the movie: Nicoletta Braschi, a poet friend, the horrors of war. Yup, The Tramp/Groucho/Jerry/Tati abandons his two teenage daughters, goes to Iraq to save the love-interest, shares light Western thoughts with the deep Middle Eastern poet and slap/sticks-up the locals (i.e., the victims, like the Iraqi people and the downy-bearded American GI’s.) Attilio devotes himself hope-against-hopelessly to overcoming the obstacles, turmoil and ironies of the war to save the comatose Vittorio and… succeeds. It’s a testament to Benigni’s towering talent that he manages to hold together a movie that is coming apart at the seams… and also succeeds (pretty much single-handedly, monloguing to a near-inanimate co-star for much of the picture or alone in the desert.) The setting and Benigni’s despero-comico antics are admittedly seductive but the Xeroxed script and white out/write-ins are just too clearly a retread of territory explored and the resulting film a fragile mess. I imagine it’s hard for Benigni to find material suited to his Janusian genius, but “same story/different pathos” can’t possibly be the answer.
Roberto, che cazzo fai?
Tom Waits energizes the film with his bookend cameos at the opening/closing of the film as the piano player at Attilio’s fantasy wedding to Vittoria (who, as an aside, returns home, gets better and only realizes it was Attilio who saved her in the very last minute of the film… oh! and Fuad hangs himself.) The contrast is just as remarkable as his relaxed, brilliant performance opposite Iggy Pop in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes as compared to Benigni’s flat, struggling performance opposite Steven Wright.
Wikipedia footnotes its definition of ‘buyer’s remorse’ with the following: “A purchase, unlike many decisions in life, is invariably either reversible or a least recoverable and should not be a source of enormous anxiety.” In this film-goer’s lexicon, that translates to “caveat emptor”… money = time, too. Mannaggia!
By: Chris Panzner
Published on: 2006-01-24