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Il Postino: Collector's Series

An international effort, starring Italian and French actors and directed by an Englishman, 1994's Il Postino (The Postman) was the only foreign-language film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award in more than 20 years. The pet-project of the late Italian filmmaker/actor Massimo Troisi (who, due to poor health, asked Michael Radford to direct the film), Il Postino tells the unpretentious story of Mario Ruopollo (Troisi), a simple-minded fisherman who lives on a small island off the Italian coast. Mario doesn't like fishing and often ponders the wealth and luxury of America and other foreign lands, but when Chilean romantic poet and communist sympathizer Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) is forced to flee his homeland and takes refuge on the island, Mario is hired as the postman to Neruda's remote villa. With just one client to serve (Neruda, after all, gets mail from all over the world), an unlikely friendship develops between Mario and Neruda (or "Don Pablo"), as the spiritually stranded Italiano tries to discern his Chilean acquaintance's insights into the human condition — which Neruda illustrates through poetry. Nitpickers (you know who you are) easily can find flaws with Il Postino (the overly sentimental conclusion, the threadbare plot), and many Neruda fans have been quick to note virtually every discrepancy between the film and the poet's actual life. However, the subdued performances by Troisi and Noiret, the lovely cinematography along the Mediterranean coast, and Luis Bacalov's distinctive, Oscar-winning score all create a unique, small film that will have you rushing out before long to get a volume of Neruda's poetry and a bottle of red vino. Good transfer (1.85:1) from a clean, colorful source print, audio in the original mono (DD 2.0). Part of the "Miramax Collector's Series," supplements include a commentary track with director Radford; the 30-minute documentary "Poems of Passion: The Return of Pablo Neruda," which examines Neruda's life and work; a short featurette on the retail soundtrack, which includes excerpts of Neruda's poetry read by various celebrities; a trailer and three TV spots; and English and French subtitles (no English dubbing here, thank goodness). Keep-case.

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