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EST. SEPTEMBER 8th, 1997
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Will you see Brendan Fraser's 'The Mummy 2' in theaters?

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c) Nope - I didn't like the first one and probably won't like the next.

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'Mandolin' Film Seen Off Key as Italy Heads to War

ROME (Reuters) - "Captain Corelli's Mandolin,'' a World War Two love story that has been accused of making light of Italy's military prowess, opened Friday as the country readies to send a new generation of soldiers off to another war.

A box office hit in other countries, it arrived two days after Italy pledged 3,000 soldiers in the war against terrorism.

The film is set on the Greek Island of Cephalonia, which was occupied by Italian and German troops. But after the fall of Fascism in 1943, the Germans turned on their former allies.

Correlli, played by Nicholas Cage, led resistance to German demands for the Italian's weapons. Thousands of Italian soldiers were slaughtered when they refused to bow to the German demands.

Although British director John Madden says the film meant to be a tender love story in a backdrop of war, some have accused him of missing the point.

Amos Pampaloni, a Cephalonia survivor, cried foul.

"The massacre is insignificant in the film. But it was a whole regiment, 11,000 men,'' he told La Repubblica newspaper.

"It is true that we didn't want to be involved in the war. But that has got nothing to do with bravery. When we had to be courageous, when we had to risk our lives, we did. We decided not to give up our arms and to fight the Germans.''

Other Italian critics say the film, which revolves around Correlli's love for an island girl he courts with the strains of his mandolin, smacks of stereotypes.

The film portrays Italian soldiers as a motley crew ready to burst into song and dance at the drop of glass of wine.

In the film, Cage lives in the home of the local doctor and falls in love with his beautiful daughter, played by Penelope Cruz, and wins her over with his melancholy mandolin songs.


Madden said it was not his intention to nourish stereotypes of an Italian soldier who rather sing than fight.

"I apologize if, without meaning to, I fed the stereotypical image of Italians -- all hearts and mandolins. That certainly wasn't my intention,'' he told reporters in Rome this week.

"I also never meant to suggest that in times of war the Italians were bad soldiers, they fought heroically,'' he added.

If the film had been released at any other time, the perceived stereotype would have barely been noticed.

But since the attacks against the United States on September 11, Italy has been on an eager war footing as center-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has struggled to put the country in the A-team of the international coalition against terrorism.

Wednesday parliament gave the green light for soldiers to go to Afghanistan if called on by the United States and even the slightest suggestion that its soldiers might not be made of the right stuff has come at too delicate a moment.

But not everyone thinks stereotypes are all bad.

Francesco Cabras, one of 13 Italian actors who play Corelli's men, believes the stereotypical image of the Italian soldier is rooted in a deep-seated Italian dislike of war.

He felt so deeply about the spirit of the Italian soldier that he made a film about the making of Captain Corelli.

His film, called "Spaghetti Requiem,'' deals with the strong male bonding between Italian and Greek actors on location.

Cabras said his film is more about peace than about war.

"I hope it will make people realize that war is so enormous and complex, not something to be taken lightly. Even the cliche that Italians don't like war is actually a positive one, I hope it is a stereotype that will be maintained,'' he told Reuters.

By Stephanie Holmes

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