The Tribeca Film Festival begins this week, but the sad truth is that six years into the fest’s history, I have yet to see a good movie there. Granted, we’ve taken off entire years in favor of Jazzfest, but there’s something about the glut of contradictory press releases, moved or canceled screenings, and red carpet premieres we somehow fail to get invited to that makes the metastasizing downtown affair rather unappealing. (And we don’t even have to worry about the $18 ticket price.) But we try, and that’s why last night, we found ourselves in a poorly ventilated theater by the Holland Tunnel to see a mediocre Italian historical comedy.
When Napoleon is exiled to Elba in 1814, a young teacher (Elio Germano) seething with hatred wants nothing more than to assassinate the conquering tyrant. He is hired as Napoleon’s secretary, but can’t muster the courage to do the deed–and instead, is charmed by his now humbled majesty. No wonder: Napoleon is played by Daniel Auteil. High-minded discussions of the art of war and the pain of remorse sit uncomfortably next to the kind of low humor often found in Miramaxy representations of quaint European towns. Away from Napoleon’s fortress, scenes of domestic comedy (“Easy with that dried codfish!”) work themselves into shrill histrionics that trigger unfortunate memories of Roberto Benigni. Moments later, questions of guilt and the expediency of human lives demand our earnest attention. Napoleon and Me is intermittently amusing, but the film can’t find its tone, theme, or center. With Monica Bellucci as full-bosomed Baronessa.
N (Io e Napoleone). Paolo Virzi, 2006. **