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Benigni Unveils Top-Secret 'Pinocchio' to Italian Press

October 05, 2002|From Associated Press

ROME — Roberto Benigni, whose "Life Is Beautiful" won three Oscars, has now put his puckish, high-energy stamp on a figure dear to Italians --Pinocchio--causing many here to wonder how he'll make their beloved puppet come to life.

On Friday, Benigni gave the Italian media their first look at "Pinocchio."

While boldness has been his trademark--the Holocaust story "Life Is Beautiful" employed whimsy and comic touches--Benigni apparently decided to play it safe with "Pinocchio," according to those who saw the preview.

"This 'Pinocchio' doesn't seem to have any intention to astound but only to tell a story that everyone knows in the simplest and most entertaining ways possible," the Italian news agency ANSA said.

The film, which opens in Italy next week and in the United States at Christmas, is the costliest Italian production ever, at more than $40 million. It was shot in virtual secrecy at the former chemical-plant-turned-studio that Benigni used when making "Life Is Beautiful."

While many Americans' image of Pinocchio and his story might come from Walt Disney's 1940 animated classic, Italians tend to have a different image, based on the books they had as children. For them, Carlo Collodi's 1880 book "The Adventures of Pinocchio" is more than just a classic tale for children. For generations, the story of how a naughty, headstrong puppet transforms itself into a responsible little boy has been a rite of passage, a kind of morality primer on how to grow up.

As he did in "Life Is Beautiful," Benigni doubles as star and director in "Pinocchio," and his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, returns here as his foil as the blue-haired fairy.

The Italian media have given the film a big buildup, with one newsweekly, Panorama, predicting that "Pinocchio" will "launch a debate on our national character," which it said resembled the puppet's qualities: "A puppet outside of the rules, clever, lying and highly reckless. But in the end, he squeaks by."

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