Saturday, December 22, 2018

On Netflix: HAPPY AS LAZZARO, Alice Rohrwacher's fable of Capitalism Italian-style, then and now

The holy fool/wise fool has a long and storied history in novels, theater and film, and the current addition of a fellow named Lazzaro -- in the new film, HAPPY AS LAZZARO, written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher -- burnishes the image a bit more brightly. A good friend of mine dislikes holy fool movies intensely and so did not care for this one (though he admitted there were good things about it). TrustMovies found the film very much worth seeing on a number of levels, beginning with the performance of the title character by a first-time actor named Adriano Tardiolo, shown below.

Signore Tardiolo has a marvelous face and body, both of which are used by Ms Rohrwacher in precisely the right way that allows us to see this character more fully than do those around him. Lazzaro is guileless and beautiful; he's a helper. Though he is sometimes referred to as a saint, that is certainly not his intention. (Saints don't try; they simply do and are.) And if you suspect that Lazzaro's character is too good to be true, the filmmaker (shown below) has that objection covered, too.

Midway through the movie an event occurs that shows quite clearly that our Lazzaro -- as lovely and amazing as he and Tardiolo both are -- is a construct: someone who must hold together the movie and its two tales, one of "then" (the 1970s, more or less: were cell phones available, even to the wealthy?) and "now," a present day in which the hoi polloi are becoming ever more redundant.

I can't remember if I even heard the word Capitalism spoken in the movie, but the film is such an indictment of that much-loved/hated system, as it has worked in both past and present, that Happy as Lazzaro takes it place as a major political statement, as well as a fine film.

And while the movie indicts the behavior of the ruling class, whether it is individual, would-be royalty of yesteryear or today's banks and corporations, neither does it allow the masses to get off the hook. They are, as ever, docile, if sometimes scheming, sheep.

Within her framework of fable, Ms Rohrwacher brings to wonderful life all the many supporting characters who circle Lazzaro. One of the delights of the film is how these characters grow and age from the first section to the second. Despite the intervening decades, Lazzaro, of course, changes not a whit.

Every performance here is on the mark, whether from the non-professionals that make up much of the cast) to luminaries the likes of Sergi López, Nicoletta Braschi (above), and one of Italy's finest actors, Alba Rohrwacher (the filmmaker's sister), shown below with Tardiolo.

Streaming now via Netflix, after a very limited theatrical roll-out, the movie is a must-see for fans of Italian cinema, particularly those who fondly recall that country's ground-breaking, post-WWII neo-realism movement. 

No comments: