Picks and Pans Review: The Postman (il Posting)
This quiet Italian comedy, set on an island off Naples, is cause for both joy and sadness. The movie itself, in Italian with English subtitles, is a beautiful piece of work. Troisi plays the titular postman, a mild-mannered, generally underemployed fisherman's son hired to deliver mail to the area's most literate citizen: Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Noiret), by turns self-deprecating and grand, who has come to stay during a period of exile from his own country. Inspired by the poet, Troisi begins whipping up love lyrics to woo the woman of his dreams, a barmaid. The villagers, frightened and awed, listen to his purple images and exclaim, "Metafora!"
This is all very charming, but the movie, directed with unerring simplicity by a Brit, Michael Radford, unexpectedly moves into much richer emotional territory. "Poetry," the postman explains to Noiret in a poignant moment, "doesn't belong to those who write it, but to those who need it."
On to the sadness: The day after The Postman wrapped, Troisi, a Neapolitan comedian who had become one of Italy's most popular performers, died of heart failure at age 41. He was so dedicated to making The Postman, a project he nurtured for several years, that he had put off having a transplant.
You can see that Troisi was handsome in a lean, slightly nerdy way—from certain angles he suggests a lustrous Ralph Nader—but he definitely looks drawn and frail, making his postman all the more poignant. His is a delicate, sweetly funny performance, all mumbles and shy glances. Troisi, at least here, was perfect. This was his only movie to receive a major American release. (PG)