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Life Is Beautiful Review


Excellent
I've been putting off this review for a long time. I saw it at Waterworks Cinemas in Pittsburgh about three weeks ago and haven't gotten around to reviewing it until now: three days after it won several academy awards. Why? Like with Saving Private Ryan, I have an incredible difficulty having my words do justice to this film.Life is Beautiful centers around Guido (Roberto Benigni), a Jewish waiter. The first half, a hilarious and uplifting story, concerns his wooing of Dora (Nicoltette Bruschi, real-life wife of Benigni), an upper-class girl engaged to a man she does not love. The second half, both terribly sad and terribly joyous, concerns Guido's, Dora's, and their son Joshua's internment at a death camp during WWII, during which Joshua is told by his father that "it is all a game" in order to emotionally shield him from the holocaust.In the opening of the movie, Benigni lets his comedic talents shine: the first scene seems directly derived from the classic comic bit about the brakes of a car failing, with a twist put in. As the car speeds through a village expecting the king and as Benigni tries to wave people out of the way, they wave back, mistaking him for their ruler. Very quickly the actual plot appears, when Dora and Guido meet while they are fixing the car's brakes at a farm. Dora has been stung by a wasp on the leg and Guido gallantly offers to suck the poison out.Watching these first scenes, you almost forget that the film's plot concerns the holocaust. Schindler's List bombarded you from frame one with harsh imagery, giving you a generally depressed feeling about it, but Life is Beautiful opts to take a comedic approach (no small effort) and makes you feel good instead. I would think that approach number two is the better one (not to call judgment on a better film), for Schindler's List drowns you in pessimism until the end, where as Life is Beautiful gives you a fair mix of optimism and realistic pessimism.The first half showcases brilliant screenwriting as each joke is more well-placed than the last, and often just as funny. Benigni is willing to do kid's humor of broken eggs in a hat, the adult humor of sucking the wasp' s venom out, and the tongue-in-cheek humor that dots Benigni's conversations with his uncle (Giustino Durano). Benigni and Bruschi draw on past collaboration with The Monster and Johnny Toothpick in order to create a near-perfect bond between the two.When the film hits phase two it seems to take an abrupt turn to the serious: the third scene you are greeted with has Joshua asking his father why a sign says "No Jews or Dogs". Even then, Guido tries to shield his son from the world around him by telling him that they just don't want Jews in their shop or Dogs in their shop, promising to place a sign in his shop tomorrow that says: "No Spiders or Visigoths."The next day, Guido and Joshua are shipped off to the concentration camp. Dora, unwilling to leave her husband, demands to be put on the train with them. Even inside of the camp, Guido is unwilling to inform his son that anything bad is happening. He tells him instead that the camp is part of an elaborate game. The object is to get a thousand points and the winner gets a real tank.Life is Beautiful is a strange contrast to the pessimism often seen in movies. For one, you love the characters so much that you want everything good for them, despite the circumstances. For two, you are given a positive message to leave with instead of a negative one. For three, the movie has the ability to make you laugh, smile, and cry, both from tears of joy and grief. Make sure you see it. If you can't watch it in theatres, then rent it when it comes out, but see it. See it because, as the movie will tell you, life truly is beautiful.Aka La Vita E Bella.
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