Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me
Groundhog Day Italian Style
I finally found a DVD copy of È già ieri (2004) the Italian-language version of Groundhog Day. Feel free to look for one yourself, but keep in mind you'll need a DVD player that ignores regional settings (it is only available in a Region 2 version) and can play PAL. I have invested in just such a DVD player because my obscure tastes in journalism films frequently lead me to overseas-only releases (Newsfront for example). Anyway, I lucked out: English subtitles!
According to IMDB, the title can be translated, literally, as It's Already Yesterday; the title for international release was Stork Day. I'm not going to post a quibble on IMDB, but I thought the Italian version was inferior in almost every way, and was a perfect illustration of how the movie itself might have gone bad in the wrong hands in this country. As has been so often noted elsewhere by others, a great movie is the amazing and unpredictable confluence of a great script, great actors and great direction.
Valentina Capecci, Giulio Manfredonia and Andrés M. Koppel adapted The Danny Rubin/Harold Ramis Script. But they have created a clockwork version, with the same characters and lines in the same situations, but with the soul taken out. It is not a shot for shot remake, it's just… off. Antonio Albanese plays Phil as "Filippo." His performance was so flat I scoured IMDB to see if he was a miscast dramatic actor. He's not; he does comedies for a living, although I can't imagine, for the life of me how. Goya Toledo plays Rita, and we see, how shall I put this, much more of her than we did Andie McDowell. That would be one reason I dislike the Italian version--less innocence. Plenty of side-breast exposure, and on-screen sex. I love sex--just not watching it in a theater, or even at home on a DVD.
Fillipo is a jerk of a TV performer. Many lines are lifted directly. He talks to his radio, telling the DJ, "you've put on yesterday's tape." He asks the landlady if she has "déjà vu," and she says she'll check with the kitchen. He clocks the Ned Ryerson character, but Pepón Nieto is no Stephen Tobolowsky; he just goes down, lacking Ned's grace in doing a 360 before falling. The doctor looks at what might be the same X-rays of his head. Fillipo tells two men of a wonderful day he once had, asks why he couldn't have that day over and over, and then drives them into a crash--on a Vespa, not in a car. And he's nowhere near as funny when the police come to call.
There are some distinctly Italian/European touches. The movie takes place in summer, not in winter, and on the Canary Islands (because of a stork migration), not in Pennsylvania (for an annual weather-predicting event). I don't expect the Italian version to be set in the U.S., but winter was the right choice for the film, summer was not. Phil got up each day at 6; Fillipo gets up at 7 (God Bless the Italians!)
Then there are the just plain bad decisions: the suicide sequence is severely truncated. The good deeds are anemic. The self-improvement is almost non-existent. The character has almost no arc of development. There is no "turning point" when he realizes he needs to use eternity differently (flipping cards in the hat in Groundhog Day). The old man sequence is different (no spoilers from me) and not as good. They actually show him undergoing a transition--bad idea, badly executed. The end of the time loop is just silly. Similar but silly. Anyone could have made these bad decisions; thank god Harold Ramis didn't.
The American version was about selfless service (seva). The Italian version is a cute, silly romantic comedy with all the resonance of a bar of lead.
I always felt, and still do, that most of the magic of Groundhog Day is in Danny Rubin's story and script. Ramis made it more commercial, but Rubin had the clever ideas. Still, several essays on the film attribute much of its charm to Murray's performance. I wasn't certain before, but I am certain now: Bill Murray is the inheritor of Bob Hope's tradition of playing the egomaniac who can't see he hasn't got anything to be egomaniacal about. And he makes Groundog Day the gem it is.
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Other material. This is a chronological "blog" of new Groundhog Day material as it accumulates; much of it once resided on the home page, but that page had become too large.
Groundhog Day essay in Stephen Simon's book, The Force Is With You: Mystical Movie Messages That Inspire Our Lives
Groundhog Day essay by Mario Sesti in the Museum of Modern Art catalog for, The Hidden God: Film and Faith
Groundhog Day by Ryan Gilbey, published by the British Film Institute and the University of California Press.
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