At first consideration, the notion of a "feel-good Holocaust comedy" was not up the Hound's alley. But Roberto Benigni's stunning "Life Is Beautiful" is not, first and foremost, a Holocaust movie, but rather a story of endurance of family love. Benigni's Guido is so intent on believing that life is--and should be--beautiful, he goes to great lengths to ensure that vision for his wife and, particularly, his son. The first half of the movie is an amusing boy-meets-girl story, Italian-comedy style, with Benigni chasing and winning his real-life wife, actress Braschi. The second half shifts to the concentration camp where Guido, his son, and--because she would not be parted from him--his wife are imprisoned. Guido fabricates an elaborate game to convince his son that the whole ordeal--the "trip"--is an endurance test to be won, with prizes forthcoming. In a particularly humorous scene, Guido "translates" a guard's barking at the prisoners as further clarification of the "rules" of the game. If the movie depicts the horrors of the concentration camps as less than horrifying, it should be forgiven; Benigni's focus is on the love between father, son, and wife. When the film played at the Toronto International Film Festival, this Hound sobbed uncontrollably while the crowd rose to their feet to cheer the Italian director, writer, and star; do light-weight comedies usually have that effect on veteran movie reviewers? Italian with subtitles.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521-1120, Toll-free: 800-723-4763, URL: http://www.bvhe.com
Available on VHS, DVD
Running time 122 minutes.
Originally from Italian.
Oscars 1998: Actor (Benigni), Foreign Film, Orig. Dramatic Score; Australian Film Inst. 1999: Foreign Film; British Acad. 1998: Actor (Benigni); Cannes 1998: Grand Jury Prize; Cesar 1999: Foreign Film; Screen Actors Guild 1998: Actor (Benigni); Broadcast Film Critics 1998: Foreign Film.
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