Are We Men Corporals? | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Are We Men Corporals? 

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This week Facets Multimedia Center begins a 15-film retrospective on the Italian comedian Toto (1898-1967), whose popularity at the box office spanned three decades. His humor never translated that well overseas, but this bittersweet 1955 comedy is one of his more ambitious efforts, evoking the melancholy wisdom of Chaplin's Monsieur Verdoux. A movie extra, Toto keeps disrupting the shoot (in a funny send-up of the Italian film studio Cinecitta) and then visits a psychiatrist, where flashbacks reveal his experiences as a resourceful survivor during and after World War II. Masquerading as a Blackshirt, stealing food in a stalag, enduring a boorish American colonel, and blowing the whistle on corrupt journalists, he becomes convinced that the world is divided into honest, resilient citizens and foolish, oppressive exploiters. As an actor, Toto shares with Chaplin a gift for pantomime and pathos, and though the film lacks the elegant plotting of Verdoux, some of the skits are inspired, ranging from drollery to farce and graced by a faith in the healing power of humor. Camillo Mastrocinque directed. 94 min. Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Monday, May 7, 7:00, 773-281-4114.

--Ted Shen

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