The Austin Chronicle

Volere, Volare

Rated R, 94 min. Directed by Maurizio Nichetti, Guido Manuli. Starring Maurizio Nichetti, Angela Finocchiaro.

REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., April 30, 1993

Much in the same manner as Roberto Benigni's Johnny Stecchino, Nichetti's Volere, Volare joins the growing trend of Italian films that puts a Latin spin on Hollywood comedy genres of the past and present. But this time around, Nichetti's current effort (up until now he's been best known in the States for his 1989 film The Icicle Thief) doesn't stop at paying homage to American comedy only. He decides to dance on the viewer's head and test the viewer's patience by presenting a bizarre mix of Italian sex farce-meets-science fiction/horror-meets-Chuck Jones animation, and the results are hilarious, but uneven to the point of arousing head-scratching amazement. Nichetti stars as a Chaplin/Harpo/Woody Allen/Jacques Tati archetype whose entire existence is spent recording and/or finding the perfect sounds for cartoons. Meanwhile, Finocchiaro portrays a “social worker” in the world's oldest profession who specializes in gratifying clients with special kinks: a gourmet chef who decorates her nude torso as a giant cake; nerdy, voyeuristic twin architects in tweed who pay to see her bathe and undress (ironically to the very same theme music as Alfred Hitchcock Presents); a wealthy couple who want her to “play nurse” as they “play dead,” and a cab driver from hell who makes Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver seem absolutely normal. When Nichetti's character by happenstance crashes two of Finocchiaro's kinky scenarios, her clients begin to demand that he also be included in on the whole game since his presence adds more reality to their fantasies. The next thing you know, love blossoms between these two misfits whose lives are separately, yet completely absorbed in catering to the fantasies and illusions of others. But wait -- it's time, from out of nowhere, for Nichetti's character to suddenly start turning into a cartoon character of himself (?!), and from that point on, the narrative just grows more bizarre up to its abrupt and unsatisfactory conclusion. Manuli and Nichetti skillfully mix animation and live action together in smooth fluidity, and there are some genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout the film. But Nichetti seems to bite off more than he can chew in his Hooray for Hollywood stew, and it gets to be too much of a mouthful for the viewer.

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