Just as Gene Siskel recently admitted that he walked out of BLACK
SHEEP, let me confess that I went to see THE POSTMAN (IL POSTINO) as
soon as it was released last year, but walked out bored stiff after
twenty minutes, and so I never wrote a review of it. Since it got two
major Oscar nominations, Best Picture and Best Actor (Massimo Troisi),
I decided to go back and see it all no matter how unpromising it seemed
in the beginning. In short, I am glad I did, but I do not think the
film is Oscar caliber. I found THE POSTMAN to be an extremely slow,
but heart warming little picture.
On a small and poor Italian island in 1953, a famous Chilean poet,
Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret), comes to live in exile. Since he is an
avowed Communist, he is shunned by his government, but since he is
known as "the Poet of Love", he is adored by all the women of the
world. That he is plain looking, in his 50s and balding is of no
concern to them; they are hot for him because of his poetry.
Massimo Troisi plays a simpleton, a la Forest Gump, called Mario
Ruoppolo. Mario applies to be the postman to part of the island. It
turns out that in that area everyone is illiterate except for the newly
arrived poet and hence the poet is the only one that ever gets mail.
Being a mailman to a single person is more work that it might seem
since woman all over the planet write to the Poet of Love.
Pablo becomes a mentor to Mario who decides he wants to be a poet
too. Mario wants to know all of his secrets since he is in awe of him.
Pablo tries to convince Mario that poets are quite human and tells him,
"We poets are all fat." In a touching series of scenes, Pablo attempts
to teach metaphors to Mario, but Mario is sure that the concept is too
difficult. When he accidentally creates his first metaphor, Mario
claims it does not count since it was not intentional.
Once reason Mario wants to be a poet is to attract women. Being
painfully shy, he needs all the help he can get. When he goes into a
bar, he sees a stunning beautiful woman, Beatrice Russo (Maria Grazia
Cucinotta), in a low cut dress playing a table game with soccer players
on sticks. He plays it with her without speaking, but loses since he
spends most of the time staring at her.
An old Dictaphone type of instrument plays a key part in the show.
Pablo warns Mario about it saying, "Even the most sublime ideas sound
ridiculous if heard too often."
With Pablo's help, soon Mario is spouting poetry left and right.
He woes Beatrice with lines including, "your laugh is a sudden silvery
spoon," and "your smile spreads like a butterfly." With his new
confidence, Mario becomes involved in the Communist party, but he
wonders what would happen if they ever actually won. "So what if we
break our chains? What do we do then?"
I did not buy the ending of the show. Although the conclusion did
not detract from the overall effect of the picture, I found it too
I have no idea why this film was nominated for best picture of the
year for 1995. There were so many that were better, PERSUASION and TOY
STORY just to name two much better ones. And as for Massimo Troisi
getting the best actor nomination, I am even more surprised. His
acting consisted of mumbling his lines while keeping the exact same
sick dog expression on his face throughout the entire film. An
effective, but monochromatic performance and certainly not worth award
The sets by Lorenzo Baraldi and the cinematography by Franco
DiGiacomo create a wonderful atmosphere of a dirt poor but highly
picturesque out of the way island. The town is lush shades of rose and
salmon and most of the houses have highly texture stucco walls with
pealing paint. The simple costumes by Gianna Gissi add to the feeling
of prevailing but beautiful poverty. The natural grandeur of the sheer
rocky cliffs overlooking the blue ocean seem a natural setting for
poetry. Finally, my favorite part of the film is the music by Luis
Enriquez Bacalov. It is dreamy music full of overtones of a simpler
time and place.
THE POSTMAN runs a slow 1:56. The editor (Roberto Perpignani) and
the director (Michael Radford) create a film with long scenes that are
only sparsely filled with dialog. I suggest bulking up on coffee as I
did, or the film's soporific pacing may put you to sleep. This is a
sweet little life affirming movie, but it moves at a glacial speed.
When there are words, they are in Italian subtitled in English. The
film is rated PG for no reason whatsoever. There is no sex, nudity,
violence, bad words, or anything to offend anyone of any age. A two
year old could see this film. I give the movie a thumbs up and award
it ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes