Life is Beautiful **** (out of 5) (1997)

Cast: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano

Directed by Roberto Benigni

Italy 1939. Guido is a Jewish Italian working as a waiter for his uncle, where he meets his wife Dora and they fall in love and get married, with their son Giosue as a result. The Nazis head into the area and take Guido along with his uncle and son to a concentration camp, with Dora coming along. Guido does everything he can to shield his young son from the atrocities which are going on in the camp, making it seem like a game. Guido also knows children are exterminated in the camp, and must do everything in his power to keep the Nazis from discovering his son.

Although being under two hours in length, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is really two movies in one. The first half of the movie is pure farce, with Benigni creating his usual Marx Brothers-style antics for laughs. The second half of the movie gets a bit more serious, with death and torture all around. Amazingly enough, the second half is where some of the biggest laughs come, and Benigni as director does an astonishingly impressive job in keeping the film funny even in the darkest moments. That's not to say he makes light of the holocaust, as it is treated very seriously despite the comedic aspects.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is one of the best film's of 1998, and deservedly received the Oscar nomination for Best Picture, with Benigni also deserving the Oscar he received for Best Actor. It's entertaining and tragic, hilarious and serious all at the same time with performances and characters that will stay with you forever. Without a doubt, it's Benigni's finest work to date and ranks among one of the best films of the decade. A definite must-see.

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