The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, August 23, 1995             TAG: 9508230037
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   59 lines


``THE POSTMAN,'' currently at Lynnhaven Mall theaters in Virginia Beach, is a rare find. How often do you find a movie that deals with the written word (poetry, specifically) as the force that drives a life, and a romance? The acquiring of education is not usually treated, in the movies, as a theme for both drama and emotion. Here, thanks to a memorable performance from Italian comic Massimo Troissi, it works brilliantly.

Troissi, who was an adored and famous comic actor in Italy, plays a simple but not simple-minded, man of the people. His curiosity, as well as his brain, are teased and inspired when he delivers the mail to a famous, exiled poet who has moved to this isolated and beautiful Mediterranean island. The poet, Pablo Neruda, is played by the familiar French actor Philippe Noiret, whose hangdog face wears fame and intellectual respect in a way that makes him eccentric, but not smug.

An unusual, and unlikely, friendship develops. The postman learns what a metaphor is, and it changes his life.

In a movie world in which plot turns usually depend upon guns or sordid melodrama, it is refreshing to find a film in which the joy of learning opens the kind of emotion that can (and, hopefully, often does) exist in real life.

The setting is off the Italian coast in the post-fascist 1950s, with a people who are adjusting to newfound freedom. It is based on a Chilean novel and directed by an Englishman - a true international endeavor.

The ``education'' of characters in the movies has often been a case of simple, free souls proving that the academically educated are more in need of education. ``The Postman'' takes a new twist in that the education of the postman, the common man, actually nets unexpected rewards. Here the power of book learning is heralded rather than satirized. The postman has a crush on the most beautiful woman in the village and uses his new knowledge wisely.

This, however, is a one-man show, and it all belongs to the sorrowful, mellow face of Troissi, who turns in one of the best performances of this movie year.

Troissi, who was suffering from a heart condition, had told people that he wanted to use the last bit of himself for this film. As it turned out, he did. Delaying a prescribed heart transplant in order to finish the film, the actor, at age 41, died one day after shooting was finished.

This is wistful mood piece, a comedy-drama in which the power of friendship and the written word are amply displayed. It should not be missed. ILLUSTRATION: Graphic


``The Postman''

Cast: Massimo Troissi, Philippe Noiret

MPAA rating: PG

Mal's rating: 3 and 1/2 stars

Locations: Lynnhaven Mall (lower level) in Virginia Beach

by CNB