Sunday, March 1, 2009
The Calimero Connection
I never met a wooden boy I didn't like.
The idea of a person forged from natural ingredients has always interested me.
There have been many interpretations of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio (1882) over the last 100+ years.
Disney took a shot at him, but they played down the darker, tragic aspects of the tale.
In '02, director/actor Roberto Benigni attempted to crack the Pinocchio code, too. He didn't shy away from the darkness, but he made the suicidal mistake of casting himself as the wooden boy.
His monstrously miscalculated decision rendered the film a wretched disaster that insulted the ghost of Collodi.
In '88, artist Roberto Innocenti, working from a '74 translation of the original Collodi text by E. Harden, achieved greatness with his visualization of the wooden boy's incredible journey.
It captured the essence of Pinocchio, a tale of a young boy's search for identity and decency in others.
Benigni played the boy as a part time buffoon, but there is no buffoonery to be found in Collodi's creation.
...is balanced by its celebration of courage and individuality.
Ironically, the only other character, to my mind, who has shared a journey akin to Pinocchio's is Calimero, also the creation of Italians.
In '72, a Japanese production company adapted the character for animation, and one of the saddest, most moving pieces of television ever made was created. It ran for two years.
When I first saw it in '73, I was hypnotized by its unbelievable atmosphere of tragedy and hopelessness.
In each episode, poor little Calimero would get taken advantage of by people he trusted.
He would cry: "It's an injustice, it is," and the curtain would come down on another episode.
The seed of Calimero is Pinocchio.
This 1st edition of The Adventures of Pinocchio, with art by Roberto Innocenti, was published by Jonathan Cape, Ltd. in the UK.