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NYFF: Happy as Lazzaro

Jason Adams reporting from the New York Film Festival

The surprises that flow out of Alice Rohrwacher's Happy as Lazzaro start like a trickle - an idiosyncratic sound in the forest, a mysterious red light burning in the night sky - and flash to a flood by  the mid-point, washing away what we thought we knew of its retro-future strangenesses. The earth cracks like a shell, piece by piece, and reveals another odd shell underneath.

Lazarro tells the story of an isolated band of sharecroppers in rural Italy, whose Sisyphean work in the tobacco fields only seems to plow them further into debt day after day...

They're exploited by their upper-class Marquis and in turn they exploit the simple-minded and kind Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), an orphaned cipher who it seems lives to serve them with a benevolent and sexless just-happy-to-be-here smile. 

Lazarro, whose name is revealed to be as stuffed with simple allegory as was the Chauncey Gardiner of Being There, wanders the rocky farm and its surrounding mountainous environs perfectly fine with doing the dirty work of the already very dirty. That is he is until he makes an unexpected friend, and suddenly time and space itself begins to unravel, the castles fall down, get picked apart, and the disturbances in the matrix wreak strange havoc from on high...

All that said it's best to know as little about Rohrwacher's bittersweet and strange fable and its winding walkways going in as you can - it's intent on loping rightward when your eyes are looking left; only in the last act do her political and allegorical intentions truly lay themselves bare, and explicate how the trip's been truly worth taking. Howl, howl to the moon, mere mortals - pieces of us go on forever in every direction.

Happy as Lazarro has completed its NYFF screenings and will be released in US theaters on November 30th

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Reader Comments (5)

What a nice review! Thanks

And please, send love to brazil, we need it so bad :(

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTheBoyFromBrazil

Lovely trailer and Mr Tardiolo has a face made for the movies

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I can't quite put into words how much I love this movie, how it moved me and left me in awe of Rohrwacher's genius. Her voice reminded me of the old-school Euro-humanists like Bunuel, Fellini and de Sica - not in terms of style, just in terms of level of depth and artistry.

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered Commentergoran

This one was great. And it's a lingerer, too.

October 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks


October 11, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

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