(Recommended by SI Blog reader VJ Cool & Ganesh)
Indian thieving swines can’t make movies.
Now, repeat that after us a million times.
We just finished watching the 1997 Italian film La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful).
Completely swept away.
That’s what we were by the sheer beauty of the film.
Directed by Roberto Benigni (who also plays the lead character Guido), Life is Beautiful is a brilliant tragicomedy, the likes of which come along once in two decades at best.
And the kind of classy movie, our Indian schmucks can’t imagine putting out in a million years.
Set in Italy of 1939, Life is Beautiful starts off as just another funny foreign movie but midway veers off in a different direction and ends as one of the great tragicomedies in motion picture history.
It’s after Guido, his young son, wife and uncle are carted off to a Nazi Concentration Camp (because they’re Jews) that the movie comes into its own.
We won’t tell you the details lest we spoil your joy but Guido launches one of the first amusing and tragic games farces in the concentration camp.
Pitted as Guido and his camp-mates are against a brutal, murderous regime you know it’s ultimately not going to end well but yet can’t help getting up caught up in the game.
Roberto Benigni, who plays first a waiter, then a bookshop owner and finally a Nazi concentration camp inmate is an extraordinary actor who animates the screen with his presence.
Fittingly, he’s often described as Italy’s ‘National Treasure.’
Roberto Benigni’s real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi, who plays his beloved ‘Princessa’ and wife Dora, is most certainly not a bad actress herself but no match for Roberto in the acting department.
Young Giorgio Cantarini, playing Giosuè the boy, steals our heart with his expressive face and gestures. Should we credit him or the director Roberto Benigni for extracting a fine performance from the young kid?
The pleasing soundtrack by Nicola Piovani is the icing on this beautiful cake.
In a movie that oozes class throughout, it’s hard to highlight a few scenes. Still, we must acknowledge that the scene at the train station, the initial moments in the large room of the concentration camp filled with bunker-beds for the prisoners when the game is launched and the final moments as Guido entertains his young son one last time are for the ages.
Naturalmente, a movie as charming as Life is Beautiful has picked up awards galore at most film festivals including the Oscars (3), Cannes (Grand Prize of the Jury) and far more than we can recount here.
The DVD of this brilliant Italian film with English subtitles is available at Netflix and most county libraries in the U.S.