NY Mirror

Footloose turns out to be like Stupid Kids without the irony, but not as bad as that sounds.

At the movies, Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful is an instant classic, and I'm tired of seeing Benigni have to defend it because it has humor, as if this was just some feature-length Springtime for Hitler. Benigni doesn't trivialize the Holocaust; his character heartbreakingly tries to protect his child from its horrors, and when the laughs come up, they serve to either inject more humanity into their plight or make wicked fun of the fascists. Anyway, the mostly overwhelming response has made Benigni's life beautiful. The last time I saw the guy, in '93, he was posing in a giant grounded balloon, trying to promote that Son of the Pink Panther bomb. Well, this time, he was floating on air at his movie's party at the Plaza, where luminaries lined up to kiss his ass, and were so into it that they probably would have pleasured his banana too, if asked.

I commiserated with Benigni about those critics who've put him on the spot, and he said, "I don't have to defend this movie because it's so vulnerable. It's like a naked kid--uno bambino nudo. It defends itself. The movie, he's defending me!" Real-life children--clothed ones--certainly get it, and in Italy they've responded to Benigni by embracing him as a sort of life-sized Mickey Mouse. "I'm well known in Italy as a cartoon," he told me, "and since kids are purity, they write me letters, with drawings on them." Which American movies does he embrace? "I like the classics by Scorsese, Tarantino, Woody Allen--he's not Italian--and William Wyler. Ben-Hur was my first movie, but I didn't have enough money, so I saw it backwards. I saw Ruh-Neb." Oh, that's the version where Charlton Heston was the walrus.

Finally, in the get-her department, you may have heard that Martha Stewart was in one of the vehicles held up by last week's protest march against antigay violence, and she didn't look too happy, especially when a few people started chanting, "What do we need now? New sheets!" I guess Martha shouldn't have left Connecticut--and by the way, she also shouldn't go to see Bride of Chucky, because bridey's big moment has her screaming, "Fuck Martha Stewart! Martha Stewart can kiss my shiny, plastic butt!" That's acting!

Michael Musto can be e-mailed at musto@villagevoice.com.

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