Forgotten Films: Allegro Non Troppo (1976)
This is the 8th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
One of the great things about the period prior to the widespread use of the VCR was the repertory theater which showed classic old films on a big screen. In San Antonio, that theater was the Olmos on San Pedro, In Dallas; it was the Granada on lower Greenville. Usually a film would show on a double bill for one or two nights. So you might get a wonderful combo like CASA BLANCA followed by PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. Or SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and GOLDDIGGERS OF 1935. And they also showed a lot of foreign first run films that the multiplexes wouldn’t touch. My first date with my wife was to see Ingmar Bergman’s AUTUMN SONATA at the Olmos. Sandi grew up in west Texas and Bergman films just didn’t play in Abilene. So I have many fond memories of the theaters.
Whenever the schedule would be printed out, I would get a copy and see how I could plan out my life around what might be showing. This was about the only way to see these films, aside from a rare late night stint on TV, filled with commercials.
This week’s film, ALLEGRO NON TROPPO (“Not so fast!” in Italian per Wikipedia), was a film which showed in pretty regular rotation among these theaters. Bruno Bozetto was an animator in Italy who had done two feature films (a spaghetti western WEST AND SODA and a superhero film VIP MY BROTHER SUPERMAN – there are alternate translations of these titles) as well as a lit of commercials and cartoons in Italy. He had a series cartoon character named Mr. Rossi (who makes a brief but memorable appearance in this film). One day he decided to make a film combining classical music and visuals.
Knowing that he had to compete with the heavy reputation of the Disney studios and of FANTASIA in particular, he knew the film had to be distinctive and have great music. The music is great, opening with Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (an agin satyr chasing much younger nymphs), followed by Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance #7 (a brief humourous parable on conformity), Ravel’s Bolero (evolution from a Coke bottle), Sibelius’s Valse Triste (the heart breaking story of a cat), Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, Strings and Continuo RV 559 (another whimsical piece where a very hungry domestic bee cannot eat her dinner without encountering a pair of lovers in a meadow), and Stravinski’s Firebird Suite (specifically The Princesses’ Khorovod and The Infernal Dance of King Katschey sections) (the Adam and Eve story where the snake eats the apple and sees the perils of the knowledge of Good and Evil). To this, he added some amazing animated segments. The stories range from whimsical (the Vivaldi) to heart wrenching (the Sibelius). The animation styles are varied from piece to piece. In a couple of areas (notably Prelude and Bolero) we see pieces which directly contrast with sections of FANTASIA (the Beethoven Pastoral and Stravinski’s Rite of Spring). In each case, Bozetto’s work holds its own against the earlier work.
There are some live action segments here, just as in Disney. Where Disney presents the striking Leopold Stokowski and the symphony, Bozetto gives us a parody. His conductor (played by Nestor Garay) has an orchestra of aging women, all at least 65 dressed in an odd assortment of costumes. They are locked away before the performance, feed slop midway through the show and escape later. There is also the animator (played by Maurizio Nichetti, a screenwriter in Bozetto’s stable) who draws the images seen in the film, the Cleaning Girl (Marialuisa Giovanni), and the Presenter (Maurizio Micheli). The live action pieces are slapstick and seem somewhat forced, but they are a welcome relief from the presentations of Deems Taylor in the Disney. There is even a segment when the Presenter, full of pride at the original idea of combining classical music and animation receives a phone call from the legal department of someone named Prisney or Grisney saying it has been done before.
Each of the segments is interesting. For me, the Bolero with its evolutionary march and the Valse Triste with its story of a haggard looking living cat in a slum or bombed out ruin who is reliving his real life in better days or imaging the fantasy he would love to have had are the standout pieces, though the Afternoon of a Faun has a special place in my heart. Sometime in the mid 1980’s at a convention I purchased an animation cell from that portion, showing a nude green woman with red hair holding a apple containing the aging satyr’s teeth (about 14:20 into the film). It is framed and hangs on one of my walls to this day.
The Bolero segment contains one of the two best uses of a Coca Cola bottle in film. In THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY, the bottle tossed from a plane leads to all the adventures in the film. In ALLEGRO the bottle is left behind by astronauts and it gives the impetus to start the evolutionary cycle.
The DVD I watched also contains ten of Bozetto’s best cartoons, though you should be warned that several are not suitable for younger viewers – Baby Story is essentially a sex education film with humorous undertones while Strip Tease is exactly what it says it is. The film is rated PG according to IMDB. Strip Tease would be (in my best guess) an R.
The DVD also contains a nice 40 minute Italian TV documentary about Bozetto from 2002 that is pretty illuminating and well worth the time.
All in all, this is very good film with some nice extras. I saw it on the big screen with full stereoscopic sounds probably 5 times. It’s not quite the same on my TV. If you can see it big, do so. Otherwise just see it.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.