(ot Ladri di Saponette) Italian movie (1989). Bambú/Reteitalia. Pr Ernesto Di Sarro. Dir Maurizio Nichetti. Screenplay Mauro Monti, Nichetti. Starring Ernesto Calindri (himself), Claudio G Fava (tv movie critic), Heidi Komarex (Heidi), Caterina Sylos Labini (Maria Piermattei), Nichetti (himself/Antonio Piermattei), Federico Rizzo (Bruno Piermattei), Massimo Sacilotto (Massimo), Renato Scarpa (Don Italo), Carlina Torta (the wife). 85 mins. Colour and b/w.
Nichetti comes to a tv studio to take part in the presentation of the screening of one of his movies, the bleakly neo-Realist (and bleakly b/w) The Icicle Thief: a dour tale of poverty, theft, crippling accident and prostitution in post-war Italy owing a considerable thematic and cinematic debt to Bicycle Thieves (1948). In this movie-within-a-movie unemployed piece-worker Antonio, whose glamorous wife Maria wishes to become a popular singer, gets a job at the glass factory. Maria has dreamed that his employment will bring not only better food but also a beautiful chandelier (the "icicle" of the title refers to a chandelier's crystal pendant). Antonio, on his first day at work, steals an elaborate chandelier, but on the way home . . . So far, the movie Nichetti sees televised is approximately as he made it, but the screening has been frequently interrupted by insensitively timed advertisements for expensive consumer goods, and the movie and its characters have begun to respond both to the commercials and to the outside world, glimpsed through the tv screen. The model Heidi, wearing very little, plunges from a commercial into the b/w river past which Antonio is cycling with the stolen chandelier; he saves her (in a stunningly effective piece of fantasy work, as he dries her with his jacket she fades from colour into the b/w of her new background) and brings her home. Maria believes the worst, and throws herself into both the river and, as it proves, the colourful world of the commercials. Matters become yet more complicated and crosshatched.
This is a superb movie at every level; notably, its Parody of neo-Realism succeeds in being better-made than its originals. As a fantasy, TIT offers a knowing, educated exploration of the interaction between Alternate Realities in which the rules of Story differ and in some of which they may eventually come to govern. [JG]