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Senior Citizen Kane: Pinocchio

Matteo Garrone

When Carlo Collodi first created the character Pinocchio in 1883, he cannot have expected the impact it would have on popular culture over the next 140 years. The story of the little wooden puppet-boy has been adapted for the big screen multiple times, and has also featured on stage, TV, opera, in video games and now as a ‘lying face’ emoji. Perhaps the 1940 Disney animation is the most well-known, though in this new version director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Dogman) rejects Uncle Walt’s warmth and cuteness and instead returns to Collodi’s original darker tone. Starring the wonderful Roberto (Life is Beautiful) Benigni, this is a fantastical, humorous, and occasionally grotesque version, fit for the 21st century.

“fantastical, humorous, and occasionally grotesque…”

Pinocchio’s journey from wooden marionette to real live boy takes him through a world that is at the same time both absolutely recognisable and utterly fantastical. Unscrupulous thieves will steal his money and hang him from a nearby tree, he’ll be transformed into a donkey, threatened with a lifetime in jail and swallowed by a giant fish. But he will also be helped along the way by a turquoise-haired fairy and a talking cricket, who will try to keep him on the straight and narrow, teach him some valuable life lessons and get him to stop fibbing.

Sumptuous settings capture both the wild beauty of northern Italy and the ugliness of real poverty, and powerful performances are enhanced by fantastic costumes, wigs and make-up, perfectly capturing the often animalistic features of the characters. With an eclectic score (no Disney songs!), occasional rays of sunshine breaking through the grey and brown palette, and an unfailing eye for the visually bizarre, this is a genuinely refreshing twist on a seemingly familiar tale.

Advisory Note: The BBFC classification for this film is PG (“General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children. A PG film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older.”). They note the film contains “scary scenes, mild violence”. Audiences should be aware that this version of the story is more akin to a Grimm fairy tale than the Disney favourite. In addition, very effective use of CGI makes some of the scenes much more realistic – especially the hanging of Pinocchio and the deliberate drowning of a lame donkey – so this film may not be suited to the very young or those of a very sensitive disposition. 

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