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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Allegro non troppo
Allegro non troppo
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // February 3, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by DVD Savant | posted January 30, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson




This fully-packed animation disc from Home Vision gives us a perfect (and uncut) version of the
original Italian Allegro non troppo, plus two more hours of content about animator-producer
Bruno Bozetto: ten of his best short films, plus a 42-minute Italian television documentary that's
equally fascinating.




The feature Allegro non troppo has always been liked more by animators and art students than
general audiences. In 1977 they expected anything animated in a theater to be about fuzzy animals and
preferably with the name Disney on it. But a good version of this classic has been awaited for a long
time, and I can report that it's finally here.




Synopsis:




A crazy producer who never heard of Walt Disney assembles a crowd of old ladies for an
orchestra and summons an animator from a dungeon, to make an animated film blending art and classical
music. Various comedic scenes transpire in the theater, as the conductor tries to keep his orchestra
and his animator in line. The animated selections - Debussy: Afternoon of a Faun
Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun. Dvorak: Empire Builders. Ravel:
Evolutionary March Bolero. Sibelius: Feline Fantasies Valse Triste.
Vivaldi: The Birds and the Bees. Stravinsky: Paradise Lost The Firebird.




Trashing some Disney while honoring other Disney is a big theme these days, with the present
disliked status of the Eisner-run studio a big factor (of all the studios to work at, younger
employees loathe and fear it the most). Detractors often point to the 1940 Fantasia as
classical art crushed down to digestible kitsch for middle America (which declined the patronizing
gesture). Fantasia was repopularized in reissues, only to fall victim to the neo-Disney backlash,
especially after the Fantasia 2000 show, and the typical arrogant studio marketing
nonsense about the original 'changing,' so we'd better buy it now, blah blah blah.




Well, there are some marvelous things in Fantasia that have still not been bettered, even
by computer animation. In 1977, an Italian semi-spoof did lukewarm business, probably because
theatrical animation was at a low ebb. The fact that Allegro non troppo placed itself in
the shadow of the Disney film didn't help.




It sprung from the imaginative world of Bruno Bozzetto, a Milanese animator making his third feature.
More than half of its running time is a live-action wraparound comedy skit shot in B&W, another thing
that viewers noted in the negative sense. The animation is of the clever conceptual kind, not the
full-dimension miracle work that Disney was doing before WW2, but often brilliant in design and much
more dimensional than the previous non-Disney benchmark, Richard Williams' Yellow Submarine
original DVD announcement. The
animation in Allegro non troppo really amounts to five or six short subjects similar to his
earlier stand-alone shorts.




Bozzetto's brand of humor is definitely Italian, definitely
adult (there's plenty of material her that's not for kids, but in a very gentle way) and both
sardonic and sentimental at the same time.




The episodes are a mixed bag, with three or four being truly memorable, and the others coming off as fragments
that wouldn't have stood alone as short subjects. There's a quickie piece to Dvorak music that
shows the growth of civilization from cave dwelling to ugly cities, but it's a trite concept done
with little imagination.




The winners are captivating. A Debussy piece is often compared to Fantasia's
Beethoven sequence, but succeeds in standing alone. An optimistic senior-citizen faun is frustrated
in his attempts to interest the nubile nymphs that all the younger satyrs so easily bed - he tries
a makeover, but every contact with the wood-babes is an erotic frustration. The animation is cute
and clever, and the adult content is both appropriate and classy. With his bad eyes, limp and paunch,
the little faun resembles a worn-out version of a cartoon series once seen in Playboy. He
gets our sympathy in an odd way - the short seems to say that sex is for the young, but male egos
just don't see it that way.




The most famous piece riffs from Disney's Rite of Spring piece, the one about evolution, with the
dinosaur extinction pictured as a 'shuffle off to Buffalo' in a sunbaked desert. Bozzetto overcomes
the imitation factor with his excellent choice of music. Ravel's Bolero is a majestic
march that Bozzetto uses as a solid background for his jokes. Instead of a faithful evocation of
evolution, in troppo starts with an incident of interplanetary litterbugging, that results
in a drop of ooze morphing into more and more illogical but hilarious crawling, jumping, and flying
creatures, each more ambitious and hungry than the last. They hop and drag themselves around, gobbling
each other up. About halfway through, a joker enters the picture, a malevolent ape that delights in
malicious mischief like using the discovery of fire to burn up the other wildlife, just for laughs.
Some of Bozzetto's critical short subjects criticize pollution, war and other modern folly in fairly
trite ways, but this episode ends on a sinister note that connects well with Kubrick's ape-astronaut
similie in 2001.




Also frequently praised is the kitty-cat sequence done to a mournful Sibelius dirge. A cute kitten
wanders in a crumbling ruin of a house, remembering the life and happiness that once lived there. The
artwork is excellent here, and cat lovers were surely reduced to tears. Since Bozzetto gives the cat
a huge set of wet eyes similar to the animals and children in those awful kitsch-art paintings (can anyone
remind me of the artist first associated with this stuff?) I have to think that Bozzetto intended a
measure of parody or even criticism here. The piece doesn't develop beyond its one nostalgic effect,
however.




Also fun but perhaps a bit obvious is a comedic sequence where an (anatomically correct) Adam and Eve
refuse the apple proffered them by the snake, who eats it instead. The the music of Vivaldi,
the snake is the one to suffer the wrath of original sin instead (see the cover illustration). It has
its cute points.




Animation fans tended to react just as strongly to the finale montage, which consists of dozens of
strange one-joke skits, many of them hilariously sadistic. A long distance runner is sliced like
cheese by the finishing-line wire, the lips of two kissing heads are ripped off, etc. They remind us
of the majority of Bill Plympton's work, which might have developed at the same time, but seems
derivative.







Allegro non troppo is rewarding but plays as a collection of shorts separated by a lot of
one-joke live-action material. Co- writer and director Maurizio Nichetti is a fine clown as
the animator, but the material still plays like spotty skit work. Fortunately, the disc comes with
an amazing extra, ten of Bozzetto's short subjects, that stay consistently inventive throughout his
career. They aren't as inventive with animation technique than, say Film Board of Canada work, but
they're far less likely to be academic or boring, and most of them are funny in the extreme, even
the 'socially relevant' morality plays that don't work so well in the feature. Some are one-jokes,
but good ones. He makes history into a funny parade of aggression in Grasshoppers and spoofs
mosquitoes trapped in a Horatio Alger fantasy in Self Service. Dancing is a cute blackout
about Death, and Mister Tao a good zinger about God. Striptease is somewhat derivative of
Tex Avery, but Baby Story takes a potentially tasteless idea and makes it charming.




The surprise was A Life in a Tin, which I saw as a film student in Westwood in the early 70s.
The audience applauded madly for its perfect little evocation of the transcendant joy of life, which
only appears for brief moments. It's one of his more minimalist works and has a great musical score.
The little scribbled character succeeds wonderfully.




Very helpful to the uninitiated is a longform Italo TV docu The World of Bozzetto which covers
his career from playing with an animation stand his father made him from an ironing board, through
commercial success to his features. We see a sampling of his live-action work, and some intriguing
clips from shorts not included on this disc - especially an (I think) educational short that uses
the idea of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to present theories on personality disorders. Bozzetto is seen
with his collaborators and at home, where he ponders a life spent in creative distraction. In the
90s he showed where his heart was by coming home from work (where he stopped doing the physical
animation decades ago) to animate minimalist films on his computer with the Flash program. Creativity
is creativity.





Home Vision's disc is attractively laid out. The transfers are all immaculate; both Allegro non troppo
and A Life in a Tin play much better at 1:33 than the way I saw them, matted to 1:85. Sound
is crystal clear as well, highlighting Bozzetto's creative composers. The film is in the original
Italian with removable subs, but there's no dialogue in the animated sections. We can easily tell this
is an unaltered Italian version - there's even cards to cue up part one and part two. (Italian movies
were often shown in halves, to facilitate a mid-feature consession stand break.)

Film Threat's Phil Hall provides liner notes. If you've skipped down here
to read about the extras, this time they're discussed up in the body of the review.






On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Allegro non troppo rates:

Movie: Excellent

Video: Excellent

Sound: Excellent

Supplements: The Best of Bruno Bozzetto: Baby Story, Sigmund, Grasshoppers,
Striptease, Self Service, A Life in A Tin, Big Bang, Dancing, Baeus, Mister Tao
; TV docu
The World of Bozetto (42 Min)


Packaging: Keep case

Reviewed: January 30, 2004












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