Nino just can’t win. Give this poor Italian emigrant a job as a waiter in a posh Swiss hotel and the authorities will collar him for indecent exposure-peeing in a public park. Bleach his hair and moustache—the better to blend in with a barroom full of Swiss nationals—and he’ll betray himself by rooting for Italy in a televised soccer match. Give him a ticket back home as a
reprieve from all this comic misery and he’ll jump off the train and walk back toward Switzerland. After all, where else could Nino keep losing so often? And with such style?
Director Brusati, who sees Nino’s heroic, pathetic doggedness as a crucial key to the Italian character, has built his caustic fable out of a series of skits, each a reel or two long, in the silentcomedy tradition. From this angle, Bread and Chocolate looks like a cornmedia dell’arte valentine to the films of Charlie Chaplin. Like the Little Tramp, Nino is a displaced person, an idealist dropped rudely into the real world who wants only to find a job, meet a nice girl and hang onto his dignity and independence. Nino Manfredi, with his question-mark face and exclamationpoint body, works hard to evoke the pathos Charlie earned with the merest, most eloquent shrug. If Manfredi fails at this task, it’s not to his shame, but to Chaplin’s eternal glory. On less exalted terms, Bread and Chocolate provides a yeasty, semisweet couple of hours at the movies—no mean accomplishment these days. Still, there’s something puzzling about its rapturous North American reception. The film has been piling up profits in Manhattan since last July. And, at a time when America’s most ambitious films are increasingly “European” in style and pacing, two American critics’ groups gave their best-film awards to a French screwball comedy (Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) and an Italian essay in sentimental slapstick. Perhaps bread and circuses have become too inflationary and people are settling for bread and chocolate.
The Deer Hunter: Sweeping, thoughtful, deeply felt epic of going to war and returning from it. So flawed and so magnificent. There is nothing quite like it on movie screens right now.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: The
ultimate urban horror tale. Pods from outer space take over the population of San Francisco. Philip Kaufman's remake of the 1956 classic keeps piling climax atop climax with grim wit.
Movie Movie: Two parodies of '30s movies—a fight story and a musicaldone with speed, style and affection.
Watership Down: Animated version of Richard Adams’ bunny allegory, its drama delicately penciled in detail.
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