Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Allegro non troppo (1976)



          As did nearly every other cinematic genre, animation ventured into trippy dimensions during the ’60s and ’70s, producing movies that seem somewhat befuddling when viewed outside of their original contexts. The Italian animation/live-action hybrid Allegro non troppo is one such picture. Although made with tremendous craftsmanship and imagination, the picture is a bit of a drug-era relic. Even though it’s self-admittedly styled after the Walt Disney cult classic Fantasia (1940), Allegro non troppo doesn’t have an obvious raison d’etre the way the previous film does. Whereas Fantasia represented Disney’s bold attempt to fuse animation with classical music in order to create a new form of expression, Allegro non troppo is as much of a parody as it is a serious endeavor. That being the case, what are comedy fans to make of long sequences that lack humor, and what are thinking viewers to make of slapstick vignettes? Plus, it’s not as if filmmaker Bruno Bozzetto can claim that his movie is unique, given the Fantasia connection.
          The phantasmagoric picture begins with a black-and-white scene of a presenter/host (Maurizio Michell) introducing a performance by an orchestra conductor (Néstor Garay) and an animator (Maurizio Nichetti). As the conductor leads musicians in recitations of pieces by Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, and other iconic composers, the animator draws scenes that spring to two-dimensional life. After each animated sequence ends, the movie returns to the black-and-white setting, with the action in the theater eventually becoming silly chaos thanks to the involvement of a pretty cleaning lady (Maurialuisa Giovannini) and, for no particular reason, a dude running around in a cheap gorilla suit.
          Some of the animated sequences are quite beautiful, notably a vision of evolution set to Ravel’s “Boléro” (one of two bits directly modeled after Fantasia). The animation is creative and fluid, with objects morphing into other objects in surprising ways, and the use of shadows to create dimensionality adds nuance. The style of the animated sequences varies wildly, because some scenes are fairly linear and literal, while others are impressionistic and surreal. All in all, it’s not hard to imagine ’70s stoners merrily responding to Allegro non troppo the same way they did to, say, blacklight posters. Nonetheless, by the time the movie concludes with a live-action sequence involving a mummy—during which two flesh-and-blood characters become animated characters before flying away—the inevitable and unanswerable question becomes, “What the hell was that about?” Some wierd ’70s movies are indulgent and some are provocative, but Allegro non troppo is merely whimsical, which means that it’s also disposable, despite being entertaining in fits and starts.

Allegro non troppo: FUNKY

3 comments:

Peter L. Winkler said...

"truly unique"

Something is either unique or it isn't. The word unique doesn't allow modifiers.

By Peter Hanson said...

Already corrected before I saw your comment -- someone was too fast on the draw with the grammar policing! But, yes, you're of course correct. Although I've resigned myself to the fact that some errors will live on the blog temporarily because of the speed and volume of content (the voracious hunger of a daily posting schedule means I can't proofread and stockpile material the way I could at the beginning of the project), I do try to catch every linguistic gremlin eventually, so I'm grateful to eagle-eyed readers who indicate any glitches that I miss. And by the way, I'm reading your Hopper book as we speak.

JKruppa said...

I first saw the Bolero section in the early 80s and it made a tremendous impression on me. It's the best piece in the film, I think, and is still effective today.