This is such a magical movie, existing on the border of dream, reality, myth, and memory. I love the world Rohrwacher creates: you want to stay in it forever. I found the social/political commentary a bit tiresome: I thought the film was too magical to get bogged down in that! But perhaps it's impossible to avoid. Oh, and, as I watched, I kept thinking of "Tree of the Wooden Clogs" by Ermanno Olmi.
Very playful. Just enough magical realism to be profound (especially the traveling music) and keep it from turning silly. Reminiscent of "Au Hasard Balthazar" except with that film's focus on the innocence and cruelty of life, "Happy As Lazzaro" deals with the move from a rural life to a city life, as well as materialism and modernity. And to think, the actor who plays Lazzaro had never acted before! He was perfect!
If you find yourself wondering what year this is at the beginning, hold that thought. What unfurls, in unexpected ways, feels like a trek through a half century of Italian history (and cinema), with the continuing story of the Holy Fool at the center and both realism and magic at the edges. Its wrestle with a changing political/religious culture can be a touch too blunt—but ever mysterious enough to entrance.
Surprises abound, such a fresh film. In shakier hands, this could have easily gone into cartoonish, overly-whimsical territory. As stands, balances serenity of nature & despair. Some somber & quite funny scenes. Plot is unique, certainly held my attention. MC & Marquis actor(s) are fantastic. 16mm seems gimmicky at first but works. Primary critique: ending is a bit too on-the-nose. 4.5
Despite the idyllic nature of great part of the story, the pace was never affected. In fact, it was often used to lure and hypnotize in conjunction with the powerful images. Not eschewing subtly wry humor, this depiction of irreparable loss, is an eye-opener for the strange direction the world is taking these days. Rohrwacher’s work is brilliant and very much recommended. (4.5 stars)