English Title: The Monster
Original Title: Il mostro
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Director: Roberto Benigni
Cinematography: Carlo Di Palma
Music: Evan Lurie
Rita Di Lernia
Luciana Pieri Palombi
Before ascending to his insurmountable zenith with LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (1997), Roberto Benigni’s THE MONSTER is a winsome farce about an innocent layabout Loris (Benigni) is wrongly identified as a serial women-slaughterer at large, in order to catch him red-handed, the police force assigns a young policewoman Jessica (Braschi) to go to great lengths to entice him into the irrepressible perpetration (ultimately, a red riding hood costume), therefore, a spate of funny sketches ensure while Loris’ resistance is ultra-impenetrable.
Benigni is a superb comedian, a do-it-himself practitioner, skilfully concocts lewd yet never graphically offensive sex-related slapstick in this larger-than-life scenario, individually, each skit is authentically rib-tickling, the opening one which causes the false impression for the entire film, is that Loris confuses a middle-age woman Claudia (Pieri Palombi) for a nymphomaniac, and predictably his overt seduction turns into sexual harassment. It is funny no doubt, but a bit too cheesy to be taken seriously since each laughter is arbitrarily calculated, easily anticipated, and provoked by mere happenstance – this is the key tone of the film, all the antics are in your face, but you cannot complain too much since they are well-crafted.
However, the wholesomeness of the story fail to survive under the barrage of giggling-inducing escapades, there is no credible rationality in finding the whodunit, the chemistry between Loris and Jessica never reach its threshold of romance, but the husband-wife team makes it up by the synchronous walking-like-midgets loveliness, witnessed by a distinguished resident (Girotti) every time. Rest of the cast is uniformly one-dimensional yet fundamentally enjoyable, Michel Blanc is hysterical as the doctor who is determined to diagnose Loris in person, the segment where he and his pills-chomping wife Joland (Lavanant) visit Loris and Jessica for dinner is the high-water mark for paranoid ridicule. Jean-Claude Brialy is the testy proprietor, Ivano Marescotti is Loris’ sole business supplier, Laurent Spielvogel is the livid police chief and Franco Mescolini is his amiable Chinese teacher, perhaps one of them is the culprit?
The exaggeration of physical gestures and the Italian style of uninterrupted monologue may not be appealing to all its audience over the world, some minor goofs (e.g. the stalking video camera is ludicrous enough to only capture Loris’ escape route while completely oblivious of the chaser, the antique dealer) are to some extent detrimental to the core of the story.
On the other hand, one should not nitpick a feel-good comedy, which is the most demanding genre for filmmakers because every culture has its unique language of humour, a true universally appreciated one is like a needle in s haystack, and THE MONSTER is almost there, it is among the very rarefied above-average hierarchy to say the very least.