Better-late-than-never department: Michael Radford’s “Il Postino,” a.k.a. “The Postman,” has become one of last year’s most tantalizing movies on account of its enthusiastic review notices and its sparse distribution.
I had expected this soulful, intimate film to lapse to video any day now.
But with the critics’ circles paying renewed tribute to “The Postman” in anticipation of a foreign-language Oscar nomination, Miramax Pictures has wised up and resumed theatrical bookings.
A dull-witted, pleasant-natured postman (played by Massimo Troisi) would have no job if not for the presence of Pablo Neruda (played by Philippe Noiret), the great Chilean poet, on a sparsely populated Italian island.
Neruda is in exile as punishment for his political leanings, and he seems to crave solitude. The mail carrier, however, is a frustrated intellectual who believes that Neruda’s brilliance might rub off on him if he hangs around long enough.
Though the poet rankles at the hovering presence, Neruda finds himself gradually charmed by the postman’s rough-hewn friendliness and even teaches him the rudiments of poetry - to the extent of playing Cyrano for the postman’s courtship of a village barmaid (Maria Grazia Cucinotta).
England’s Michael Radford directs with such warmth and understanding that the fiction (albeit based on facts in Neruda’s life) might as well be true.
Philippe Noiret makes a convincingly grumpy Neruda, who cuts a comical figure in telling contrast to his essential seriousness. Massimo Troisi, a popular Italian comic actor who died soon after the filming of “The Postman,” finds in his title character a rich mixture of absurdity, tenderness and tragedy.
xxxx “Il Postino” (The Postman) Location: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by Michael Radford; starring Massimo Troisi and Philippe Noiret Running time: 1:47 Rating: PG