New from Overseas: Shock and Philosophy ; Italy's New 'I'm Not Scared,' Investigates the Puzzle of a Boy Imprisoned in a Hole in Ground

Article excerpt

It's been a good year for American movies, but distributors are importing an impressive range of international films as well. This week brings two highly contrasting items.

"I'm Not Scared," from Italian director Gabriele Salvatores, begins with a daunting enigma.

Playing near his small Sicilian village, a boy named Michele (Giuseppe Cristiano) stumbles on a secret in the countryside: another child, miserable and speechless, passing an agonized existence in a dark, dank hole.

Does the little boy live there? Is he a modern Kaspar Hauser who's never seen civilization or his fellow humans? Or is some sinister scheme at work?

Michele keeps his discovery hidden for a while, then starts trying to figure it out - with results that are perhaps more frightening than the secret itself, suggesting that grownups from the area are responsible for the wild child's plight and hope to profit from it.

This might sound like a Hollywood thriller, and I won't be surprised if American producers remake "I'm Not Scared" one of these days. If so, they'll be hard pressed to top the Italian original, which is cleverly structured and smartly acted.

Its only real problem is a common one for stories that start so mysteriously: The more we learn what's really going on, the less tantalizing the mystery itself becomes. This said, it's hard to find a current release that so effectively teases the mind and emotions.

"Twentynine Palms" was written and directed by France's Bruno Dumont, a former philosophy professor who sparked controversy when his 1999 murder mystery "Humanite" won multiple prizes - after lots of impatience and derision from viewers - at the Cannes film festival. …


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