Late Italo actor Massimo Troisi bows out with an affecting performance in The Postman, a sad-sweet tale of a simple Mediterranean islander whose life is forever changed by his friendship with an exiled Chilean poet. The popular Neapolitan comic died in his sleep June 4, 1994, at age 41, a day after shooting wrapped at Cinecitta Studios.
Chilean writer Antonio Skarmeta’s original novel, Burning Patience, inspired by his own exile in Berlin during the ’80s, was set off the coast of Chile. Present version transfers the action to an unnamed Italian island during the early ’50s, and makes several other major changes.
Troisi plays Mario, who dreams of wider horizons but lacks the intellectual ticket to reach them. When communist Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) arrives on the island after being granted sanctuary, Mario is hired as his personal postman. When Mario falls for sexy local barmaid Beatrice (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), Neruda becomes his councelor/father-confessor, smoothing the way past the girl’s overprotective aunt (Linda Moretti) and trying to teach him to pen love poetry.
The first feature by British director Michael Radford since White Mischief in 1987, pic is essentially a two-hander between Troisi and Noiret, spending much of its length flip-flopping between chats at Neruda’s cottage and Mario’s musings back in the village. It’s Troisi’s show but, with little assistance from Radford’s by-the-numbers direction, and a script that starts to become very diffused about halfway through, the bottom line is that it’s a performance in a vacuum. Luis Enrique Bacalov’s warm, tuneful score is a big help in giving the pic some emotional shape.
[Out of respect for the late actor, within Italy direction was credited to ‘Michael Radford, in collaboration with Massimo Troisi.’]
1995: Nominations: Best Film, Director, Actor (Massimo Troisi), Screenplay Adaptation, Original Dramatic Score