The Italian Almanac

Roberto Benigni

Italian Movies - October 5

Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni was on a defensive footing as he unveiled his eagerly-awaited new film on Tuesday, immediately rejecting charges of superficial sentimentalism. La Tigre e la Neve (The Tiger and the Snow), a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the Iraq war, stars Benigni as a love-struck poet. The movie hits Italian screens on October 14 but was met with half-hearted applause at a press preview.

The film, which cost 18 million euros to make and will open in a close to record-breaking 800 cinemas, features many of Benigni's long-term collaborators including his actress wife Nicoletta Braschi - who is also a co-producer - and screenplay writer Vincenzo Cerami. The score was also penned by Nicola Piovani, who bagged an Oscar for his music to Benigni's acclaimed 1999 Holocaust picture Life Is Beautiful.

As in that film, it is Benigni's love for Braschi that provides the motive power of The Tiger and the Snow. Benigni plays Attilio De Giovanni, whose unrequited love for Braschi leads to madcap adventures to win her heart, including chasing her from Rome to Iraq. When Vittoria is seriously injured in Baghdad, Attilio rushes to her aid just as American tanks are set to invade the Iraqi capital.

The movie was shot in Italy and Tunisia, with districts of Baghdad and Falluja recreated at three southern Tunisian oases and the Tunisian government providing troops and tanks. It also stars Fench actor Jean Reno - of Leon fame - as well as British actress Emilia Fox.