Life is Beautiful

Year: 1997
Director: Roberto Benigni
Writer: Roberto Benigni
Cast: Roberto Benigni
One of those films people routinely award Most Undeserved Best Picture, an accolade generally assumed to be the result of collective madness on the part of Academy voters. It might have something to do with Benigni's notoriously emotional outburst when he accepted his award (eclipsed a few years later by Halle Berry's Oscar screeching for Monster's Ball).

Although if we're all honest, it was a dead cert; in a country with as much Holocaust angst as the US, and a town with such a strong, high profile and powerful Jewish community as Hollywood, anything to do with the suffering of Holocaust inmates is a shoe-in for some sort of critical praise.

And I have to agree I can see the artistic merit behind the idea. It features the biggest plot turnaround since (or before) From Dusk Till Dawn, completely out of left field. You think you're watching a comedy about the romance and sweetness of falling in love in wartime Italy, suddenly your fast forwarded to the romantic clown Guido (Benigni), his wife and child all living happily before being shipped away to a concentration camp.

When most of us would come undone, Guido - fully aware of what's going on - proceeds to make the whole thing out to be a game for his son, who as a result never has any idea that they're in a forced labour camp earmarked for mass slaughter.

That's where the magic lies, a man's irrepressible spirit for make believe, one which shields his son from the most horrible truth of the 20th century, even when it costs him his life (which I might add I didn't see as the dodgy DVD I was watching packed up the last five minutes - I had to go on the internet and look for spoilers).

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