Modern fairy-tale about ageless purity

April 1st, 2019

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What’s it all about?

Surreal and ludicrous, Alice Rohrwacher’s hypnotic new film connects with the past through folklore and cinema in order to ask questions about present circumstances that can give us an idea about the future. Lazzaro, a genuine, good-natured young man played by Adriano Tardiolo - a fantastic newcomer who deliver a captivating performance - is bossed around by everyone. Since he is filled with infinite kindness, we will find him happy every time. He’s happy because he’s good.
The movie is infused with mystery. The viewer will not fully understand where it’s all heading, the “bedtime story” feeling being wisely built through a “time and place” puzzle, never defining what decade this ambiguous fantasy takes place in.

What else?

Directed by Alice Rohrwacher (2014 Cannes winner with “The Wonders”) who once again teamed up with cinematographer Hélène Louvart, the movie is crafted using grainy sepia 16mm images that project into screen warm and nostalgic scenes, such as that of a couple canoodling in a field or an unlikely reunion in the back of a furniture-filled truck. But, above all, “Happy as Lazzaro” is a sad poem about modern Italy subsumed by corruption and decline.

Honorable mention

The cast includes Alice’s regular collaborator/talented sister Alba Rohrwacher (“Ismael’s Ghosts”), and veteran Spanish actor Sergi López (“Pan’s Labyrinth”). And a wolf. What about the wolf? He’s some kind of symbol roaming the town, representing the never-ending struggle of nature and progress. He illustrates the complexity at the heart of a movie that confirms Rohrwacher has much to say and her own, seductive ways of saying it.

Is it worth it?

If you like the timeless, 1960s cinema of Fellini and Pasolini. If you want to see a portrait of a society where people’s understanding of right and wrong is forever changing, where being a truly good human is an impossibility not because the world is evil but because each person’s world is different. If you’re not sick and tired of us, humans.

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