Dec 9, 2018
We’re back on format today, after getting caught up from the wildfire evacuation, and revealing how the podcast will be changing for next year. And while we’re caught up on episodes, we’re not caught up on Netflix Original movies, especially after Netflix dumped five international films at the end of November. So, this week, we’ll be getting caught up on those films, along with a few others which have been released recently. Got any suggestions? Let me know at onemoviepunch.com, or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “Happy as Lazzaro” (2018), the Netflix Original Italian drama written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher. The film follows Lazzaro (Adriano Tardioli), a peasant boy in the village of Inviolata, who is cajoled by the local nobleman Tancredi (Tommaso Rango), to aid in his own kidnapping. During the false kidnapping, his fellow village dwellers are taken away, and Lazzaro makes a bizarre journey to reunite with them. The film won best screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
And I mean it, this time, as talking about this film requires talking about some key plot twists.
I’m a huge fan of religious imagery, as I think understanding the various religions of the world helps us understand society’s origins and its current state, for better or worse. I’m not really talking about the latest wide distribution religious films being funded by far-right religious organizations, that inject religious messaging with all the subtlety of a fart in church. I’m talking about films using religious imagery to tell very human stories. This film is stuffed with imagery, partly because of its initial locale of Inviolata, and partially because of the weird left turn it takes that sets Lazzaro on a saint’s journey. The last film I saw with this much religious imagery, and that hit in the same way, was Episode #182 (“The Ornithologist”), so if you end up digging this film, check out that one as well.
“Happy as Lazzaro” is a film in two parts. The first part introduces us to the village of Inviolata, located somewhere in the high hills of Italy, where sharecroppers from an unknown time period are harvesting for their lord, the Marquesa Alfonsina de Luna, who is coming for a yearly visit. We learn quickly, however, that something is not right, as the family arriving has modern technologies, and when a call is made for the police to assist in finding the purported missing nobleman, they uncover that this kind of sharecropping arrangement has been illegal, not to mention the conditions in which they were living in the abandoned village. However, Lazzaro falls off a cliff, and they end up leaving him behind. I would have been fine with just this story, but then things get weird.
Lazzaro awakens, and after learning the village had been abandoned, begins a very long journey on foot to reunite with his family and Tancredi. We join this peasant boy as he walks past cell towers, modern farms, and finally full urbanization, the direct opposite of where he awoke. It’s also many, many years later, and Lazzaro is clearly out of his element in the modern world, especially as things get weirder and weirder. The whole film is an allegory for the transfer from feudalist to industrialist societies, for better or worse, much like religion. Despite the weird turns, the film keeps a great pace, even with the time jump, and all the sets, urban and rural alike, were incredibly well chosen. Adriano Tardioli carries Lazzaro well, never breaking his saintly character, even as the film draws to a close. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I left the film enjoying every second.
“Happy as Lazzaro” (2018) is Alice Rohrwacher’s third feature film, a religious allegory about goodness and a symbolic story about industrialization. Adriano Tardioli plays the lead role well, carrying Lazzaro’s story through both strange and well-traveled terrain. Fans of religious imagery or social allegory will definitely want to check out this film, but be ready for a strange tale.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Metacritic: 86 (MUST SEE)
One Movie Punch: 9.4/10
“Happy as Lazzaro” (2018) is rated PG-13 and is currently streaming on Netflix.