director Bruno Bozzetto
I believe that it was in my first film class in junior college that I was introduced to Allegro Non Troppo, Bruno Bozzetto’s oddball parody of Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940). I often think back to that class because we on the whole were given a pretty excellent smattering of world cinema. I don’t know where I would have run into Allegro Non Troppo otherwise.
The film is structured around live action sequences, with a pompous narrator introducing each sequence. Unlike Disney’s film which was made in deep seriousness, Allegro Non Troppo features a scrawny, unappreciated artist, an overbearing, brutish conductor, and an orchestra made up of little old ladies who had been kept in a cage before going to perform. This light comedy is moderately deft, but by no means is the main import of the show. Bozzetto’s emcee gets a phone call from Hollywood and cites Disney openly. But this parody isn’t made to make Disney’s film look bad, rather just cites it as its point of reference.
The film’s best sequence is the march of evolution set to Ravel’s Bolero. This mimics Fantasia‘s Rite of Spring sequence, which shows the forming of the earth and eventual evolution to the dinosaurs. Bozzetto’s version is far more impish. It all starts out of the sludge of a Coke bottle, a bubbling, constantly seething mass with an eye that eventually morphs into a growing number of increasingly sophisticated organisms. The creatures are all more bizarre than the next, striving fitfully and often fruitlessly to survive. The sequence comes to a close when the nasty-looking monkey discovers fire and builds machines and cities and religion.
The film’s second best piece is a short set to Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 7, Op. 46 in which one man from a crowd sets out to build a shack to himself, only to have the whole of the community pick up and imitate him. Each improvement he does, they imitate too, until he’s grousing in a skyscraper city. So, he devises a silly dance for them to imitate, which they do. And as he gets them going, he tries to lead them over a cliff, like proverbial lemmings. Only they aren’t as stupid as he thinks and when he looks to see what’s happened, he gets mooned en masse.
The kids enjoyed the film, though, as typical, Clara a bit more than Felix. I had been telling them about it and saying that it was a parody of Fantasia, but it wasn’t until the film opened on “Prelude to a Faun” that Clara recognized what Fantasia was. She said, “That’s one of my favorites!” And she liked this one as well.
I’ve always noted that it suffered a bit from being “of its time”, the mid-1970’s, and it’s a much less big budget affair as opposed to Fantasia. It’s very 1970’s.
But it’s also quite charming and amusing. It suffers a bit from not having a real finalé, a point of which it mocks itself. So a couple of the sequences kind of fade from memory more than stand out.
The Bolero sequence is well worth the price of admission, if you will. We also watched the DVD extras from Bozzetto’s other animations, some of which are a little less “kid-friendly” from a more prudish or Puritanical perspective, but are really not bad. Some are quite good.