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Film review: Allegro Non Troppo

Those familiar with "Allegro Non Troppo" know it is a hilarious sendup of "Fantasia," with a couple of pieces that directly spoof Disney's animated classic and many others that go off in more original, and much more irreverent, directions.

Since "Allegro" was first released in 1976, animator Bruno Bozzetto has gone on to produce many wonderful shorts, some of which are the most delightful entries in the international animation collections that come to the Cinema in Your Face! two or three times each year. (The most popular is probably "Baeus," a hysterically funny cartoon about a little blue bug that yearns to become human so he can romance a neglected housewife.)

Actually, "Allegro" is also a collection of shorts — all by Bozzetto and all pantomime pieces set to classical music, of course. They are tied together with black-and-white, live-action slapstick sequences that feature a makeshift orchestra made up of elderly women being led by a pompous conductor while an animator hurriedly comes up with cartoons to match his music. All the while a lovely young charwoman cleans up after them. (The animator is played by Maurizio Nichetti, a very clever comic actor who also wrote, directed and starred in the recent "Icicle Thief.")

The live-action bits are uneven, some very funny and others a bit too silly and over the top. But the animated pieces are uniformly terrific, some touching, most hilarious and more than a few expressing Bozzetto's trademark anti-war sentiments.

The two cartoons that go after "Fantasia" directly are the first and the most sentimental, set to Debussy's "Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun," which has an over-the-hill satyr attempting to recapture his youth by pursuing various nymphs; and a look at the formation of the Earth and the later reign of the dinosaurs, all set to Ravel's pulsating "Bolero" — and arguably the film's most impressively realized sequence. (In Bozzetto's vision, life begins from the residue of a Coke bottle tossed aside by passing aliens.)

Also impressive in a more serious vein is a cartoon that has a cat going through the burned-out remains of an apartment building, remembering the family he livedwith and the times they had together, set to Sibelius' "Valse Triste."

On the humorous side: A biting look at human conformity, inspired by Dvorak's "Slavic Dance No. 7"; an Adam-Eve-and-the-snake sequence, set to Stravinsky's "Firebird"; and Vivaldi's "Concerto in C" provides a zany cartoon that has a bee's picnic lunch interrupted by a pair of romantically inclined humans.

The funniest moments come at the end in a rapid-fire series of "finales," blackout comic bits that are as outrageous as they are riotous.

Come to think of it, "outrageous" is the word for this whole film.

Some may be offended by the abstract nude nymphs who are pursued by an old satyr with sex on his mind, not to mention brief live-action female nudity glimpsed on TV screens in the Adam and Eve sequence, which has the serpent being inundated by visions of greed and lust by an unleashed devil.

None of this is prurient, to be sure. On the other hand, it isn't really for young children, either.

On an artistic level, "Allegro Non Troppo" doesn't have the detailed animation or knockout visual technique of Disney in his heyday, certainly best represented by "Fantasia." But in its own way "Allegro" is every bit as impressive. And certainly a lot funnier.

Though unrated, "Allegro Non Troppo" would probably get a PG-13 for nudity — briefly glimpsed in live-action and animated — and some animated violence and vulgarity.