Directed by Roberto Benigni
Written by Roberto Benigni & Vincenzo Cerami
Starring Robert Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Sergio Bini Bustrio, Giustino Durano
My Advice: Don’t Miss It.
Wow. There’s your synopsis right there. Benigni, who I last saw in the truly fetid Son of the Pink Panther, delivers a masterpiece that is a very funny out-and-out comedy, but is also one of the most human and tragic films of the year. He plays Guido, essentially a clown with a vivid imagination, making his way through Italy in 1939. He presents himself as a prince one day by the side of the road, and he’s looking for his princess. She falls into his arms (literally) in the form of Dora (Braschi, Benigni’s real-life wife), a schoolteacher who he decides he must have for his bride. And well, since you already know from articles and trailers that there’s a kid involved, he gets the girl and ergo gets the son, Joshua (Cantarini). Time passes and it’s 1944. All is well until the Italian fascists round up all the Jews, including Guido’s family, and ship them to a concentration camp. Trying to protect his son from the horrors they are undergoing, Guido creates a fiction for them to live inside: they’re playing a game, a contest, and they must play it to the hilt in order to win the first prize: a real, live army tank.
I give this film my highest recommendation, and I hope the people at the Academy at least see fit to honor it with nominations, if not many statuettes. An incredible piece of art, and Benigni, we’ll just pretend that Blake Edwards fiasco never happened, eh?