"Lazzaro felice" or "Happy as Lazzaro" is a new movie in the Italian language that is a co-production between several West/Central european countries with Italy clearly at the center of it all, not just in terms of language, but also in terms of locations and the general spirit and atmosphere. Writer and director is Alice Rohrwacher who seems to be among a wave of new rising female filmmakers from Europe who could have a shot at making it big in Hollywood at some point as well. Her movie here won a great deal of awards already with the most prestigious being a Screenplay Palme d'Or at Cannes. But this is just one of several and this film made quite some waves at all kinds of film festivals all around the globe. It is a pretty long movie, makes it past the two-hour mark without credits already, but luckily there were almost no segments when it really dragged. The title character is played by Adriano Tardiolo (reminded me a bit of an Italian version of Timothée Chalamet at times) and he is pretty decent I would say. It is his very first performance according to imdb and not as challenging as it may seem. he gets away with 2-3 face expressions as a whole throughout this very movie as his scenes are rarely about him really, but more about the people he interacts with and how they deal with him. But there are also familiar faces in here. I as a European film buff recognized Sergi López immediately and and director Alica Rohrwacher castg her older sister Alba again playing one of the key supporting characters, probably the female character with the most screen time. And finally, there is Nicoletta Braschi from "La vita e bella" in here, one of my favorite films of all time, approaching the age of 60 now and I liked her performance too, even if she really does not have that much screen time.
Early on, the film almost exclusively relies on scenes in which the main character gets humiliated, rather psychologically than physically, by his peers, a group of hard-working farm aides used by a greedy old land owner against their better knowledge and pretty much held like slaves. The film wasn't bad or anything at this point and it was a decentg introduction to the setting and the main character, but perhaps it was a bit too long to be honest and also too many characters that did not get proper elaboration. Then again, most of these were interchangable anyway, like the guy who says he can be called anytime if Lazzaro needs him and then won't be seen again. I thought there could be a love story early on, but it did not turn out this way. instead we get a story about a bizarre fictitious half-brother with platinum blonde hair, who is definitely among the more interesting characters the film has to offer with his ideas of being different and alternative and how he sees himself that way, but in the end, he is really just another spoilt rich kid who is scared of cutting his own arm to add a mark of blood to his fictitious abduction letter where he actually criminalizes Lazzaro, but still treats him like his dog at times. Nonetheless, here and there you could make an argument for him not being as much againstg Lazzaro as everybody else, but that is just personal perception. When Lazzaro falls off a cliff, there is a crucial change in story. And in terms of time and locations. The fact that Lazzaro apparently does not age while everybody around him has gotten decades older let me think that Lazzaro may not have survived the fall off the cliff and everything afterward is just imagination and not reality until he also dies in his mind as well inside the banki while fighting for what he sees as the good cause. And again he is brought to the ground by seemingly everyday men and women. They aren't antagonists, but goodness exceeds their perception and nextg to him they do look evil. There is an interesting comment by a female character early on that each group of people or person just hands the humiliation to the next below them. Sadly, she is probably right, even if she does not perceive Lazzaro as the very bottom who suks it in without really caring or at least without him being bothered by it.
Finallly, a few words on the group of people he ends up with, a gang of small time crooks and the way he meets them and helps them carrying away the stolen goods while mistaking them for people working for a furniture transport enterprise is actually fairly funny and it shows us again Lazzaro's spotless mind. There is a certain irony to that that these are the people that he eventually grown close with, that it's criminals and not the simple people he grew up with, even if these criminals are not really very violent or despicable or anything. they are just trying to make a living and they don't have many other options which also has to do with lack of education when Lazzaro teaches themwhat they can eat and how they do not have to commit crimes to get fed. Sure, there are moments when they are sick of him too, especially the elder members of the group, and he never feels fully integrated with anybody except Rohrwacher's character, but it feels like the firstg time he has a true sense of belonging with other people I assume. Nonetheless, his affection with the blonde guy I mentioned earlier has him break up with these too, at least temporarily, so there must have been a special bond somehow at least from his perspective. But despite all that happens I would not call Lazzaro a masochist. I think he is just willing to do everything what it takes to fit in and help other people and he has a low self-esteem which results in him being willing to do stuff for others that others would not only not do for him, but not do for anybody and he doesn't even questions these actions. You can say that he is pure goodness really and it is depressing to watch how others use him because of that (pretty much everybody) instead of appreciating his spotless mind. An interesting movie that starts mediocre, but gets better the longer it goes and the ending is quite good to be honest. I recommend checking it out and judging from this I am curious what Rohrwacher has in store for us the coming years. Go see it.
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