La Vita è Bella [Life Is Beautiful] (1997)

(In theaters, February 1999) has a brilliant premise, but unfortunately couldn’t do it justice without bringing along a series of significant flaws. The first of these is the division of the movie in two very different halves. The first is a romantic comedy that sets up the protagonist as a clever innocent that has no other defense against the world than humour; the second is a dark comedy that shows him, eight years later, as trying to protect his son from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp by masquerading the camp as a game. Despite the jokes and the funny faces, the overall structure is nevertheless definitely tragic and that’s why the effect is split. Also grating is the movie’s reliance on shameless coincidences and often sophomoric humour. Still, don’t get the impression that this movie isn’t worth it; some sequences approach perfection -like the translation scene- and something must be said about Roberto Benigni’s unflappable charm. Making this movie took courage, and the result is impressive despite its flaws.

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