To take the piss out of a Disney product is a delicate affair: In Bruno Bozzetto's black-&-white live-action prologue, a censorious call comes through from Hollywood as soon as the F-word (as in "Fantasia") is dropped by the oily presenter (Maurizio Micheli). The parody forges ahead anyway, the goal is to make audiences "see music, hear cartoons." Sagging Jazz Babies are corralled for the orchestra, the conductor (Nestor Garay) is a truculent Bluto; visualizing the classical pieces is the cartoonist (Maurizio Nichetti), who's kept chained in a dungeon ("a contract of mutual trust"). Debussy anchors the opening sketch, tracing an aged satyr turned away from a bacchanalia -- its rueful punchline (the earth under his hooves sprouts a nipple and assumes the female form) owes a distinct debt to Blier's Calmos and Fellini's Casanova. Bozzetto's satire serves both Darwin and Genesis. The circularity of Ravel's "Bolero" becomes the driving rhythm of an evolutionary march that starts with sludge bubbling at the bottom of a Coke bottle and ends with an ominous Dawn of Man; Stravinsky's "The Firebird" finds Adam and Eve refusing the apple and leaving the Serpent to suffer through an anti-consumerist's version of Dumbo's "Pink Elephants on Parade." The sense of line here is freer than Fantasia's, easy as watercolor one moment and fierce like Lichtenstein's the next, and, indeed, two of the lighter segments (sardonic lemmingism set to Dvorak, a bee's interrupted breakfast set to Vivaldi) are unashamed doodles. The assorted sights include nods to Pasolini (giant devils expelling commodities out of their toilets) and Svankmajer (locked lips gorily divorced from a kissing couple), and Nichetti himself would recreate many of them in Volere Volare. What can't be recreated elsewhere is the ineffable ache of Sibelius' "Valse Triste" turned into a sublime ode to memory, with a bombed-out home brought back to its luster in the eyes of a stray cat. With Marialuisa Giovannini.
--- Fernando F. Croce