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Life Is Beautiful Movie Review

benigni film guido awards

The surprise among 1998's Oscar nominees was to see this $6.5 million Italian import receive seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Roberto Benigni), Best Director (Benigni), Best Foreign Film, Best Screenplay (by Benigni and Vincenzo Cerami), Best Dramatic Score (by Nicola Piovani), and Best Editing (by Simona Paggi). Life Is Beautiful is a 122-minute comedy about a decidedly unbeautiful topic: the effect of the Holocaust on Guido (Benigni) and his little boy, Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini). The first half of the film is devoted to Guido's romantic pursuit of Dora (Nicoletta Braschi, Mrs. Benigni). Dora's Mama (Marisa Paredes) doesn't feel that Guido's good enough to be her son-in-law, et cetera. The film's second half is set five years later during World War II, after Guido and Dora have married and become the parents of little Giosue. Guido and Giosue are sent to a concentration camp; Dora hopes to remain with her family, but is sent to another camp. In order to elevate Giosue's spirits and his own, Guido does his best to make their life in camp seem like one big game. If you've done any reading about Holocaust atrocities (e.g. Anne Frank, Melissa Muller's masterful 1998 biography), it's very hard to accept Benigni's concept and the accompanying lightness of tone, even for the sake of little Giosue. NOT for all tastes, including mine, frankly; if Stalag 17 led to Hogan's Heroes, how will La Vita E Bella be corrupted for mass consumption in the 21st century? Another question for further discussion: After the reception of this film, will Jerry Lewis’ The Day the Clown Cried, deemed unreleasable since 1971 because of the controversial treatment of ITS Holocaust theme, ever see the light of day? As 1998's Academy Award competition heated up, Globe and People ran stories about the actual Bergen-Belsen experiences of Benigni's father, Luigi, that inspired Life Is Beautiful. Yet Luigi Benigni was unable to turn concentration camp life into a game while he was in one. It was only after he was free that Luigi was able to come to terms with the horrors of the war with the aid of humor. Clearly, Life Is Beautiful has struck a nerve with audiences in no small part because it shows the triumph of the human spirit over the unimaginable suffering endured by victims of the Holocaust. It is clearly a dream in which many people want to believe. In this lifetime, I simply can't. AKA: La Vita E Bella.

1998 (PG-13) 122m/C IT Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giustino Durano, Sergio Bustric, Horst Buchholz, Marisa Paredes, Giorgio Cantarini; D: Roberto Benigni; W: Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni; C: Tonino Delli Colli; M: Nicola Piovani. Academy Awards ‘98: Best Actor (Benigni), Best Foreign Film, Best Original Dramatic Score; Cannes Film Festival ‘98: Grand Jury Prize; Cesar Awards ‘99: Best Foreign Film; Screen Actors Guild Award ‘98: Best Actor (Benigni); Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards ‘98: Best Foreign Film; Nominations: Academy Awards ‘98: Best Director (Benigni), Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture; British Academy Awards ‘98: Best Actor (Benigni), Best Foreign Film, Best Original Screenplay; Directors Guild of America Awards ‘98: Best Director (Benigni); Screen Actors Guild Award ‘98: Cast. VHS

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