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Life is Beautiful and So is This Film
A review of Life is Beautiful
by J. D. Rummel

It is rare that a Manly Man sits bawling in the theatre, and even rarer when one admits it, but in Omaha's Dundee Theatre (the only single screen house left in town) I sat watching a little boy on screen and feeling tears run down my cheeks. This tale of a father's love and devotion to his son during the satanic cruelty of the Holocaust is an instant classic.

Director: Roberto Benigni

Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta, Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini

Rating: PG-13

Release: 10-23-1998

Time: 114 minutes

Buy Movie at The film opens with some general slapstick humor as Benigni and a buddy arrive in a small town and begin to build their respective futures. For the first 45 minutes Benigni is amusing and cute as he woos his real life spouse into marrying beneath her station. This portion is artful, but hardly remarkable. It is the sudden film jump 5 or 6 years into the future, as fascism swallows the town that you get a shocking taste for how abruptly life can change from benign to horrific as Benigni, his child and wife are loaded onto trains and shipped off to concentration camps. Here, the father's efforts to distract his son from the misery around them takes on a truly inspired gleam. Could anyone really succeed at this? This cynical viewer was doubtful, but as when viewing any film with noble intentions, I wanted to believe. To see such love and devotion in contrast to the depths that human behavior can sink was inspirational.

On Oscar night I watched writer, director, star, Roberto Benigni bound up to the stage doing Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey in Italian and accept two awards for his work in this remarkable film. I don't actually think the Oscars mean a whole lot. How do you compare two films as diverse as Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love and declare one the best? It's ludicrous, but as Benigni gave his heartfelt speeches in his limited English, I was glad that his film was recognized in some capacity. His achievement warrants the highest praise.