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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Allegro Non Troppo
Allegro Non Troppo
Home Vision Entertainment // PG // February 3, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 7, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Setting animation to classical music may have been unique in 1940 when Walt Disney released Fantasia, but by the late 70's it wasn't new or inventive.  But that didn't stop Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto's from revisiting the idea in his 1977 feature length film Allegro Non Troppo.

This film starts with a framing sequence, shot in black and white.  A promoter is telling the audience how great the film is going to be.  He mentions the exquisiteness of classical music and the astounding beauty of animation. The promoter continues to wax enthusiastically about the production when the phone rings.  It someone from Hollywood who tells him the idea of setting animation to classical music has already been done.  Enraged, the promoter denies that anyone has ever come up with such an original idea, and hangs up.  He turns to the camera and relates how the caller said that someone named Pisney, or possibly Grisney, had already done something similar.

He then introduces the orchestra, composed of old ladies, the animator, who is supposedly drawing the cartoons in real time, and the regal conductor.  They then present several pieces of music with accompanying animation.  In between the songs there are slapstick bits involving the orchestra, animator and conductor.    Not having a suitable ending, the promoter calls up the prop department and asks them to see if they have a good conclusion laying around.

Though the idea is very similar to Fantasia, the two films are almost total opposites in execution.  Both in style and content, Bozzetto's work almost consciously avoids looking or feeling like Disney's film.  Where as Fantasia tried to be colorful and bright with cutting edge animation, Allegro Non Troppo is flatter and duller, with an older style of animation.  Bozzetto's looked like he was trying to give everything a two dimensional look.  Most of Allegro was filmed on simple watercolor backgrounds that lacked details, as opposed to Disney's striving for depth in his movies.

The storys in Allegro dealt with things that Disney and other animators usually avoided.  Sex, war, evolution, and even religion are fair game in Bozzetto's work.  Sometimes they are funny, sometimes touching, but always interesting.

In the first piece, Debussy's "Prelude a l'Apres-midi d'un Faun," an aging satyr is trying to woo one of the young nubile (and nude) women who populate the forest.  Both funny and heartbreaking, this is a theme that Disney would have never touched.

There are several very humus pieces.  Dvorak's "Slavic Dance No. 7" tells the story of a innovative man who is always aped by the uncreative hoards.  They do whatever he does and it aggravates him to no end, until he comes up with an idea.

The endings that the prop department comes up with are the most humorous parts of the entire movie.  Several very short jokes rammed together, it had the most laughs per minute of any part of the film.

Stravinsky's "Fire Bird" told the tale of Adam and Eve, but this time they both refused the apple.  The snake ate it himself, and saw what the future would be like.  A great piece, and one of my favorites.

Sibelius's "Valse Triste" told the story of a cat who lives in an abandoned building that is falling down.  He walks through the rubble, remembering happier times when he was a house cat for the family that lived there.  Very touching and incredibly moving.  An extraordinary piece that fits the music very well.

The absolute best piece was Ravel's "Bolero."  This piece is worth the price of the DVD.  Some space travelers leave a soda bottle on a planet.  From the contents spring up simple life, an amoeba.  It splits, multiplies and evolves.  Soon there is a stream of creatures walking to the beat.  As the music progresses and gets stronger life evolves faster.  Birds and fish and other creatures.  An ice age comes, volcanoes erupt, and life marches on.  An astounding and impressive piece.

As for the framing sequence, it started off funny.  The overenthusiastic promoter and the orchestra composed of octogenarians in 1920's flapper outfits was very humorous. After the first cartoon though, the live action segments relied too heavily on slapstick which wasn't as funny as it should have been.   Some of the gags were very inventive though, such as the bit were the animator drew a man on a piece of paper and sent him over to steal some food.  But the trite parts outweighed the inventive and humorous bits by quite a margin.  By the end I found these live action segments dull and way too long.  They may have played better back in 1977, but today they are very outdated.
 


The DVD:


Audio:

The audio is presented in the original Italian, with a two channel mix, and optional English subtitles. There is little, if any use of the front soundstage with all of the music and dialog centered in the middle.  It was easy to tell that this audio track was from an older film.  It was not dynamic and lacked punch.  The bass in the music and sound effects, like when a rocket launches in one cartoon sounded flat and thin.  There was also a low hiss present that wasn't too loud, but was noticeable in the quieter areas.

Video:

The video was presented in a 1.33:1 ratio.  The disc is advertised as having a new transfer, but I wasn't too impressed with the video quality.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't spectacular either.  The black and white framing sequence was rather dark, you couldn't see the folds in people's clothes, and the black tuxedos that several characters wore disappeared into the background, making it look like they were floating heads.  You couldn't make out any details in the fur on the ape that appears about half way through.

As for the animated sections, they looked better.  The colors were not very bright, but that could be the way the movie was filmed.  There were a few instances of aliasing, but there were not a large number of digital defects.  An acceptable transfer, but not great.

The Extras:

There are two very nice extras on this disc.  The first is entitled The Best of Bruno Bozzetto.  It is about an hour long, and includes ten short Bozzetto films:  Baby Story, Sigmund, Grasshoppers, Striptease, Self Service, A Life in a Tin, Big Bang, Dancing, Baeus, and Mister Tao.  These were very good.  I especially like Baby Story, a tale of how eggs are fertilized and the development of a child in the womb.  It was accurate (for the most....I don't think sperm actually carry umbrellas) and humorous.  Grasshoppers was a look at warfare throughout history which was sobering and entertaining.  My favorite short was definitely Dancing, about a guy on an island who dances his life away.  This was a great collection that added greatly to the value of the DVD.

The other extra was The World of Bruno Bozzetto a 45 minute Italian TV documentary.  This show tells Bozzetto's story from his start in animating, the creation if Mr. Rossi, and his feature films.  For viewers who are unfamiliar with Mr. Bozzetto's other work, this is a great introduction.

These extras are what I look forward to on a DVD.  They add value to the disc, instead of just taking up space like so many bonus features do.  Great stuff.

Final Thoughts:

This movie is more than just parody of Fantasia.  It is an interesting experiment that works for the most part.  Though I found the live action framing sequence to be dull and tiring as the movie wore on, the animated segments more than made up for it.  The extras are excellent on this disc, which makes it highly recommended to fans of animation.  Even if you are not a cartoon fan, their is something in this show for just about everyone.  Recommended.

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