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It's the start of the 20th century, and Tuccio, resident playwright of a theatre repertory company offers the owners of the company his new play, "Illuminata". They reject it, saying it's not finished, and intrigue starts that involves influential critic Bevalaqua, theatre star Celimene, young lead actors and other theatre residents. Written by
Cinematographer Harris Savides (1957-2012) has an uncredited part as a theatre patron who walks up to John Turturro's character Tuccio, the resident playwright of the theatre, and says to him: "Did you see the play? I hated it.". See more »
This is something to watch! A beautiful soundtrack, an excellent cast, and untouchable screen writing! Comedy and drama are woven inextricably well together in it--though I'm of a mind to throw it into the comedy category as it is quite the gut-buster.
Tuturro is indefatigably adorable (literally) as per the usual custom, while his lovely long-time partner Borowitz achieves an austere yet at the same time sensual sort of emotional anchor in the film. Sewell, gorgeous as always, makes for an excellently vain and superficial thespian. Hilarity, however, takes the stage before all else, spinning itself into and around the players and the plot. Spinning around like clandestine lovers, 5-foot bureaus, and pale-faced Pieros--all swirling about between worlds behind and before the red curtain.
Old-timers Sarandon, Walken, D'Angelo, & Gazzara (a theatrical whore, a Wildean "macaroni queen", a stuffy unfulfilled power-wife, and an Old-Father Hubbard respectively) seem to enjoy taking a break from the rigmarole of Hollywood blockbusters and relaxing into the comfort of off-beat but positively unforgettable roles. Least forgettable among them, however, is Walken and his dance of seduction, which will most undoubtedly sear itself permanently into the back of anyone's brain.
Cates, Irwin, Bassi, Behar, Aida, Sussman, and McCann are all indispensable as well, even though I list them in shameful lump here; due time for each would have the film extended another 2 hours, but what is given of them still allows each thespian to shine superbly nevertheless. They are simply smaller gems in the treasure chest this film is.
Too many people have compared it to Shakespeare in Love and other mainstream films--but mainstream it is not. Don't bother to comment on it if you confuse it with them and disdain it insofar as it does not compare with them; you only show that you don't understand it. Understand in its stead that "not getting it" is okay. For those who say, "Poor Tuccio: he was so young, and so untalented," (:-D) know that for the rest of us, the film is almost flawlessly styled, each and every moment an essential thread of a tapestry, silk and gold studded in emeralds and rubies. Yeah, a lot like that.
Much like the play it centers on, Illuminata, it is hard for most people to understand it seems; one of its primary themes I would say, if it must be stated overtly, is that the imperfection of life prevails. But don't read too hard into that either, friend; the film "goes in the wind, like someone that knows their way," which is to say that it 'floats' along. But what many mistake for meaningless meandering is really its fluidity, its subtle weaving. It is a film meant to be enjoyed thoroughly, like fine wine, to use a cliché; an opportunity to cut loose and laugh at the absurdity of it all, life that is. Even the tragic heroine played by Borowitz, whom we all agree is most noble and flawless in the beginning, in the end we see, is flawed. Each of them: flawed. And that's okay; in fact, that's the point.
Thus, I give this a 10 out of 10 because I am satisfied in all respects with the film. Its soundtrack (which I bought), its cinematography (ooh la la), its cast (magnifico), plot (incandescent), and dialog (hilarious)--are all artfully interwoven, making it a gem unfortunately overlooked or misunderstood by the general public.
Oh, and by the way: the puppets are just meant to be pretty, friends. Representative in some instances of the scenes to follow, but for aesthetic effect mainly (kudos on the puppeteering & puppets themselves).
"Tuccio! Tuccio! Tuccio!"
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