Hollywood loved 'Il Postino' - so why don't the Italians?

OSCAR FEVER is sweeping Italy. There have been five major nominations for Il Postino, and another in the best foreign film category for Giuseppe Tornatore's L'Uomo delle Stelle. But the mood is not universally jubilant. One might have thought such recognition could only gladden the heart of a cinematic nation struggling to recover its former glory, but in fact the Italian critics, and quite a few ordinary Italians, seem almost embarrassed by the adulation.

"All right, I suppose we ought to celebrate," was the grudging reaction of one critic, Irene Bignardi of La Repubblica.

"An unexpected and excessive show of generosity," said Gloria Satta of Il Messaggero.

Why such coyness? After all, a foreign-language film hasn't made it into the Best Picture category since Bergman's Cries and Whispers in 1973, and no Italian has been nominated for a top acting award since Sophia Loren in the early 1960s. What's more, Il Postino has been both a critical and a box-office success, winning rave reviews around the world for its tender depiction of the friendship between a modest island postman and the exiled Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.

But for the Italians, this is all beside the point. It's not so much that they don't like their own film - although most domestic critics were more muted than their foreign counterparts. It's just that Il Postino holds a special place in their hearts, which makes it hard, perhaps impossible, for them to remain level-headed.

Reception of the film in Italy was entirely overshadowed by the death of its star, Massimo Troisi, a popular comic actor and director who died of heart failure at the age of 41 just 12 hours after completing the last scene.

No Italian could sit through Il Postino without being mesmerised by the quiet intensity of Troisi's performance, without recognising his characteristic Neapolitan tics and fraught sense of understatement, without wincing at the pain registering on his tired face as he put every ounce of strength he had left into the part.

In fact Troisi, who had had a heart valve replaced a year earlier, could work only an hour or two a day during filming, and had his personal cardiologist on hand at all times. Friends and colleagues begged him not to continue with the project, but he insisted the show had to go on and refused to discuss his health at all.

Troisi was popular in the entertainment industry, but he was also a very individualistic person who hated awards ceremonies and the hype that goes with stardom. When the Italian film establishment tried to honour him with a special posthumous award last year, his family refused it, saying they wanted nothing to do with people "who have nothing to do with real cinema, who are in mourning because they can no longer make their fortunes with the talents of others".

When the Oscar bonanza came around, there was a similar feeling: that Hollywood, with its multi-million dollar promotion budgets and schlock sentimentalism, was trying to appropriate Troisi's life and death for its own purposes.

As a result, much of the reactions to the success of Il Postino has gone easy on self-congratulation and come down rather severely on the Oscars themselves. "It would be nice if the Academy didn't just focus on attractive, tender, simple feelings but also took note of good cinema," said Irene Bignardi, in a piece incredulous at the omission of Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and Woody Allen from this year's nominations.

So is Il Postino not good cinema? In a country whose previous Oscar successes have included undisputed classics by Fellini and De Sica, the choice of such a slight story - and directed by a non-Italian, Michael Radford, at that - does indeed look like a lapse in taste. To domestic audiences, the simple, rustic, somewhat nostalgic picture it paints of Italy (something it shares with a previous Oscar-winner, Cinema Paradiso) seems just a bit too much like a tourist-brochure caricature.

"A modest film is what it was, and a modest film is what it remains," wrote Alberto Crespi, critic for L'Unita. Just the thing, in other words, to sweep the board in Los Angeles on 25 March.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model of a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution