October 22, 2020

The eternal return of Pinocchio | Babelia


The other day I was fried with The seven samurai, in the middle of a scene of a peasant assembly that, before making me lose consciousness, brought me repeated flashbacks of the 15 M. When I woke up from my nap, I told my wife that some things seemed meant to be redone. Pathfinder should not win by default; Certain works require debugging and modernization (otherwise we would still fly by zeppelin). The first thing John Sturges did in undertaking the remake of The seven samurai It was loading the tiresome – albeit exquisitely filmed – village councils of Kurosawa. The new version, The seven magnificents, went straight to the epic and the shooting, to which had to be added the suggestive bald head of Yul Brynner. And it lasted an hour less. With this Never I would have fallen asleep, I sentenced my incredulous wife.

Pinocchio, the fable that the Italian Carlo Collodi published in installments between 1881 and 1883, shared with The seven samurai its provision to reinterpretation. Since the first silent version was released in Italy in 1911, the book has led to dozens of adaptations to celluloid. It would be tedious to cite them here, but the list includes a 1965 Belgian-American production where Pinocchio goes into space (a genius replaced Pepito Cricket with a turtle alien), an atrocious family fantasy film 1996 with Martin Landau in the role of Gepetto (the sequel was direct to video), and a 1941 German film where Pinocchio is a gay SA officer who escapes from the SS during the night of the long knives, and that I I just made up.

Pinocchio is now returning to theaters for the solace of all infants. Pinocchio (2019), the version directed by Matteo Garrone, starring Roberto Benigni (Gepetto) and a young man with an unpolished dresser face (the homonymous character), advertises his “fidelity” to Collodi’s classic as a cardinal ingredient. Benigni, by the way, had played the wooden doll in Pinocchio (2002), an adaptation as “faithful” as it is disturbing. In her, the mature actor, dressed as John Wayne Gacy in full telele, proved that sticking to the original was no guarantee of success. Not of artistic quality.

In any case, nobody could see the proverbial beard of the neighbor cut. The consensus went on to affirm that the Tuscan pamphlet was the standard to follow, and that any version that deviated from it, such as Pinocchio (1940) by Disney (I will return to him later), it would be impure from its gestation. Guillermo del Toro will premiere yet another Pinocchio, on Netflix, when 2021 arrives. It will be animation in stop motion and, of course, faithful to the book as nobody has ever been.

Drawing presented in 2011 by Gris Grimly and Del Toro to show what 'Pinocchio' will be like.
Drawing presented in 2011 by Gris Grimly and Del Toro to show what ‘Pinocchio’ will be like.

In all this, no one seems to have really read the little book, which is disturbing. Well, it could be that a) we were facing a classic that precisely cries out for the unfaithful adaptation, b) the Disney version was not the diabetic mess that some consider, and c) as happened with The seven samurai (or Moby Dick), proceed to eliminate a few reams of the old Italian, since after all they were written in 1881, for other people and another world, and put the kernel of the thing to good use.

It’s just an idea.

The original: The Adventures of Pinocchio or Story of a Buritan (1883)

The book was written to entertain, but also, especially, to educate. It is a pedagogical book in the style of the moralizing fables of our ancestors, where wayward or spoiled children always ended up caged or torn to pieces by wild beasts. So that they learn. And if some sadistic reader laughs, all the better.

The eternal return of Pinocchio

The story of Pinocchio, recently reissued by NavonaIt is well known, archetypal, and therefore doubly difficult to read. As is often the case with great satires –Farm rebellion, Naive, etc. – one always has the impression of knowing the joke. It starts with an old man, Gepetto, who wants a wooden doll. After punching out a neighbor carpenter (sic), he gets a stump. Said trunk comes to life when it is carved and becomes a wooden child, although with a dung soul. Yes, Pinocchio is a hateful character, conceived as a model for Todo Lo Malo: junkie, bad liar (remember the retractable napia), credulous, answering and stupid. And repeat offender: like a full-fledged cocaine addict teching, Pinocchio promises and promises that he will never do it again, but at the slightest mishap he is dialing the number of the camel.

After a few mischiefs, the insufferable puppet appears The Talking Cricket (not called Pepito here), “patient and philosopher”, to offer a couple of moral advice. But, luckily or unfortunately, Pinocchio crushes him with a hammer blow (suck that one, Disney), without giving him time to sing the first notes of the When you wish upon a star. And we’re still on page 36.

Gepetto, the patient elder of Santo Job, takes his self-denial to hysterical extremes: he makes Pinocchio “a little flowery paper suit, a pair of shoes with tree bark and a hat with breadcrumbs” so that he can go to school , he sells his coat to buy his school report card, and a little later he sells his aging ass in a Shanghai shop. No, the latter does not come, but the previous yes. Pinocchio, ungrateful puppet from hell, sells the primer to go to a puppet theater. The following looks as much like the Disney movie as Eduardo Manospenes (1991) to Tim Burton’s original. The Fire Eater puppeteer incorporates the burattino to his traveling theater, but later throws him into the fire, scorching his feet. Zorra and Gato, the scoundrels he runs into in cartoons, are here absentee students (“Because of the mad passion of studying I have lost a leg”), because for Collodi, skipping algebra was like injecting basuco. First they rob him, then they plan to murder him.

The Talking Cricket, who was not dead in the end, tries to warn the boy, but he turns a deaf ear. He narrowly escapes the infanticides and goes to jail with their branches. When he leaves he gets into new trouble, and all the animals of creation, along with “the girl with blue hair” (the fairy), take turns giving him paternalistic admonitions. Pinocchio returns to school, but on an outing to the beach he hooks up with his classmates, inspiring Quadrophenia. Then a fisherman mistakes him for a fish and tries to fry him in a frying pan, a parrot orders him to make amends, a snail chops him, and a tuna I don’t remember what he does, but it doesn’t matter, because Pinocchio ends up in the Country of Jauja , which on the outside looks like Oktoberfest but on the inside is a Stalinist gulag.

Unlike the 1940 film, Pinocchio ends up there as a full-length donkey. As a colt that he is, they make him pull the cart. His new master, seeing that he is an inoperative animal, throws him into the sea to drown and skin him (adapt this if you dare, Walt!). Luckily (I’m done), the fish eat his burresque skin, and Pinocchio returns to his previous desirable talking-shelf state. In the end, he rescues Gepetto from the belly of the Shark, and he becomes a child, a good child, and everything is filled with joy in the old man’s house, because “when children who were bad become good, they have the virtue of achieving that everything takes on a new and smiling look even within their families ”(uf).

It doesn’t take a light to see what it’s all about Pinocchio: listen to your parents, child of the noses, in fact, obey any figure of authority, police and priests included, study and work from sunrise to sunset, honor your relatives (infallible from birth, like the Holy Father), perform acts of charity, produce consumer goods and everything will go smoothly. Italo Calvino, in an act of adventurous exegesis, points out in the prologue that Collodi’s book is, to top it all off, full of “Christological” and biblical symbolism, from the joking Child Jesus of the apocryphal gospels to the story of Jonah and the whale, going through circumcision (when Pinocchio’s nose is eaten by birds).

The Disney adaptation: Pinocchio (1940)

Walt, old fox that he was, took the best of Collodi’s book, and snipped at the superfluities and the exemplary tab. Children’s book author Maurice Sendak wrote in The Washington Post that “the Pinocchio in the film is not the rebellious, moody, vicious, devious puppet (…) that Collodi created. Nor is he a child of sin, inborn wicked, doomed to calamity. It is rather adorable, and in that lies the triumph of Disney. Your Pinocchio is a naughty, innocent and very naive wooden child. What makes our anxiety about his destiny bearable is the reassuring feeling that Pinocchio is loved for himself, and not for what he should or shouldn’t be. ” Sendak ended by saying that Disney had “corrected a terrible mistake.”

Disney's version of Pinocchio.
Disney’s version of Pinocchio.

It is difficult not to agree. The Disney version removes the repellency and lecture, leaving the good stuff (the plot and the characters). Like all Disney productions of the forties and fifties, it is gloomy, expressionistic and suspenseful.

One last thing Uncle Walt replaced would be the look of the protagonist: the sinister anorexic Pierrot of the book mutated into a puppet with a ruddy cheek and improbable Bavarian costume, lederhosen and Tyrolean hat included. For this I have a final theory: a) Disney was right-wing. b) Hitler used to wear lederhosen. c) Pinocchio it was released on February 7, 1940, two weeks after Herman Göring commissioned Reinhard Heydrich to solve the “Jewish question.”

Coincidence? I do not think so.

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