Life Is Beautiful ★★★

[51]

I don't view Benigni's blend of lighthearted deceit in the face of Great Tragedy as irreverent or somehow disrespectful -- his intentions are good and the film reverberates his (very clear) ambitions to not only "disguise" repugnance from his adolescent son, but to kind of pull the wool over his own eyes, too, fooling himself into thinking maybe things aren't so bad (which would explain how relatively tame much of this Holocaust Treatment appears) -- but I do think it creates a strange astigmatism for the film : the helix of folly and tribulation never really coalescing as smoothly as it should. I commend the (seemingly) long (by comparison) setup of Guido meeting and subsequently stealing away his future-wife, if only because films rarely take that amount of time to develop such concrete foundations anymore. It's no coincidence that the first hour -- before the concentration camp capture -- feels significantly more robust in terms of tonal and emotional stability. And while I realize the back-half obviously isn't supposed to be "feel good" material, there's too big of a big disconnect between Part A and Part B. It traverses (rather abruptly) from deeply-augmented tale of infatuation that plays like a beautifully decorated (albeit often not-as-funny-as-it-thinks) Rom-Com to a jet-black parable about, frankly, turning the other cheek at the behest of misfortune (and/or refusing to accept what a shitty situation you're in -- reminds me mildly of the introduction of Hoffman's squatted apartment in MIDNIGHT COWBOY, and how he seems to have accepted what a dogpile it is by repeatedly telling himself the opposite). Pretty brave in its valiant effort, but there's no fluidity between the jarring transition, and though the segregated parts each have their own strengths and weaknesses, they don't really complement each other in any way. (No, I never felt worse for Guido simply because we saw him chase after his soon-to-be-wife for an hour.)

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