The Icicle Thief

This hilarious Italian farce, the fourth comedy feature of writer-director-actor Maurizio Nichetti, is everything The Purple Rose of Cairo (or Gore Vidal’s novel Myron) should have been and more. Nichetti himself arrives at a TV studio to present his feature, also called The Icicle Thief — a somber black-and-white drama set in the postwar era with a strong resemblance to The Bicycle Thief, starring Nichetti himself as an out-of-work father struggling to support his family. As the movie proceeds, we see a contemporary middle-class Italian family distractedly watching it on TV, along with garish color commercials. But things gradually start to go haywire: an American-style bathing beauty in one of the commercials winds up inside the plot of the black-and-white movie, while the housewife in the neorealist film, longing for luxuries, suddenly herself inside another one of the opulent ads; eventually Nichetti leaves the studio and takes a train back into his own movie in an attempt to straighten things out. I shouldn’t divulge any more of the brilliant high jinks of this lively populist-modernist farce, except to note that the four way traffic between the TV studio, the film within the film, the commercials, and the family watching it all is beautifully handled, and speaks to the widest possible audience without an ounce of pretension. Nichetti’s been called the Italian Woody Allen, but actually he’s a lot better (as well as funnier) than that moniker implies–not just a wise guy, but a superb comic who has an uncanny poetic grasp and vision of the times we’re living in. In short, this is a joyful experience that you can’t afford to miss (1989). (Fine Arts)

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