Dir: Paolo Virzi. It-Fr-Sp. 2006. 110mins.
The latest Eurozone attemptto find a new angle on the Napoleon story finally, Napoleon And Me allows Daniel Auteuil to pitch into a role which seems to have been cutout for an actor of his professional and physical stature. But this - and onesteamy love scene featuring Monica Bellucci - ispretty much the only spark of interest that most international audiences willget out of Paolo Virzi's disappointingly parochialhistorical comedy.
Virzi, who solid track-record is based on a string ofsocially-committed comedies (Ovosodo, Caterina In The City) set in present-day
Italian audiences willrespond to the home-grown talent (such as national treasure Monica Bellucci or leading man
Even audiences in theco-production territories of
Napoleon was sent into exileon the
Napoleon is greeted like a rockstar or a movie diva in this backwater of peasants,sailors and small-time merchants. The film's hero, Martino (Germano),is one of the few locals to resist the mass hysteria. We first see him as afiery school teacher, but his polemical diatribes against Napoleon as awarmonger who has trampled the cause of liberty soon get him the sack. Hedreams that he has a mission to assassinate the tyrant - and his plans aregiven an unexpected boost when he is appointed as clerk and librarian to thevertically-challenged emperor.
Elio Germano has had a solidstart to his acting career, winning plaudits for his performances as aconflicted late teen in Respiroand What Will Become of Us'. But herehe lacks the presence to paper over the cracks in the script, chief of which isthe failure to resolve a Jekyll-and-Hyde pull between committed historicaldrama and lightweight, Benigni-style sentimentalcomedy.
The latter mostly centres around the port town wherethe idealistic Martino lives with his shrewishlyneurotic sister
All of this tends toundermine the drama of the film's other story, which wants to be a parable abouthow the would-be assassin is seduced by the wily old ruler's charisma andfeigned shows of weakness, but which never quite gets the script or characterchemistry right.
We're left with an enjoyablesolo performance by
But Auteuilis on his own here; elsewhere, Virzi's direction ofhis actors looks uncertain, especially in a few comic conflict scenes thatappear to aspire to the Loachian school of improvisation,but actually descend into histrionic shouting matches.
Massimo Ceccherini,familiar to Italian audiences for his roles in Leonardo Pieraccioni'sbankable rom-coms, plays
Experienced production designerFrancesco Friggeri plays up the fairytale elements ofthis bucolic village-island, which is also emphasisedby obtrusive interior lighting with coloured filters.
A Beethoven's-greatest-hitssoundtrack (the composer had initially intended to dedicate the Eroica symphonyto the emperor) provides something for us to relax back into when the on-screenhumour gets too baffling.