Looking for escapist fun? Take a trip to 'Mediterraneo'

March 19, 1993|By Scott Hettrick | Scott Hettrick,Los Angeles Times Syndicate


(Touchstone, rated R, 1991)

Wisely, the producers put the dedication at the end of the film because viewers wouldn't understand the reference for the first 75 minutes of this 100-minute movie. Until then, this Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film doesn't seem to have much point.

It's a simple story of a band of misfit Italian sailors who are assigned to invade a remote enemy Greek island during World War II. They quickly become stranded and break their radio to cut themselves off from their commanders and the rest of the world.

Fortunately, the picturesque island is inhabited by beautiful, willing women and charitable prostitutes who were left behind when their men were deported by Nazis. The few other locals, old men, women and children, are also extremely hospitable, so that the men soon adapt to the laid-back lifestyle of painting, playing backgammon and soccer, dancing and dabbling with sex like naughty schoolboys. There are no pesky problems to deal with, such as health care, work or locals sad about their absent menfolk.

It's an amusing and somewhat engaging premise until we

suddenly learn -- when a stray pilot lands for mechanical repairs -- that the men have been on the island for three years. Now there are questions about whether to return to their homeland, which has become divided but which offers new opportunities as it is rebuilt. Everyone heads home except one sailor, who has fallen in love with a prostitute who dreams of opening her own restaurant.

Cut to a couple of decades later. The prostitute has died and the sailor's lieutenant returns to the island to pay respects. Seems the sailor's sergeant returned years before because he couldn't deal with responsibility at home. Now the island looks attractive to the lieutenant, who spent his tour of duty there painting frescoes. So he stays.

And thus, that easily, the film has its message: "Dedicated to all those who are running away."


VID TIP: Unlike last year when home viewers had the luxury of checking out many of the major Academy Award nominees on video before the ceremony, including "Silence of the Lambs," "Thelma and Louise," "Rambling Rose," "Boyz 'N' the Hood," "The Fisher King" and "Barton Fink," none of the films nominated for best picture, actor, actress or director will be on video before the winners are announced on March 29.

The only performance you can view this week is that of Marisa Tomei -- Best Supporting Actress nominee -- in "My Cousin Vinny." You can evaluate Best Supporting Actor nominee David Paymer on March 24 when "Mr. Saturday Night" is released on video.

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