Author - Alia Knight

Review: ‘Happy as Lazzaro’

Happy as Lazzaro has garnered a number of awards and nominations, including the Canes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay. It is an enchanting insight into an aspect of Italian history and tradition that doesn’t often take center stage in the movie theaters.

Rather than sweeping cathedrals or regal art galleries, Happy as Lazzaro opens on a dusty, rustic farm. The impoverished farmers who work the land are apparently engaged in sharecropping; trying to pay off a suspiciously large debt to the wealthy family who owns the land with the crops they cultivate and harvest. Between the feudalistic layout, the presence of modern machinery and folksy atmosphere, you as a viewer are left genuinely uncertain as to what era the film is meant to take place in.

In the midst of all of this is Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), a pixie-like young farmer who floats through the dirt and noise with childish acquiescence and an angelic demeanor that makes him seem like a being from another world. Lazzaro befriends Tancredi (Luca Chikovani) the son of the farm’s cruel mistress, which leads to a shocking twist that explains the mysterious nature of the estate and injects a dramatic dose of magic, mysticism and traditional Italian folklore into the story.

The movie may test the short attention span of today’s cinema goers. In the beginning it moves rather slow, depending largely on keeping the audience confused to maintain their interest. As the story progresses, a powerfully relevant theme of worker exploitation and the tremendous gaps that can exist in a society emerges.

 

Director Plays a Director in “Newly Single”

“Newly Single” is not the peppy romantic comedy its name may suggest. This explicit film, directed by and starring Adam Christian Clark, is an intense emotional rollercoaster about the dating life of an unbalanced filmmaker.

Clark plays Lester, a conceited young man struggling to make it as a writer and director in Los Angeles. The movie weaves back and forth between his efforts to get his film off the ground and his romantic life after/during a difficult breakup.

As the story progresses, the parallels between the two become more and more evident, in ways that range from comical to sinister. By the end of the movie you can’t help but wonder whether the film he is struggling to make is his outlet for how he would like his love life to be, or the other way around. What’s clearer is Lester’s inflated ego is far more fragile than it appears at first. He wears a different mask depending on who he’s with, and he’s with so many different people in the story that even you, the viewer, has to actively try to discover who he really is.

Through its music, style and clear use of symbolism, the movie definitely has an old-fashion vibe to it. Indeed, the old-time charm that it opens with makes its increasingly explicit sex scenes that much more surprising.

Its plot is fragmented to the point of feeling directionless at times. While its seeming lack of purpose can make it hard to stay interested, Clark’s riveting and convincing portrayal of a delusional, insecure teenage boy in a man’s body, as well as the performance of rest of the cast, does not.

Review: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

“Fearless Lives Forever.” That is the slogan of the trailer for the film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and it is indeed suitable. This movie is not shy about depicting for the audience how Farrokh Bulsara, better known as Freddie Mercury, was all about defying labels and transcending conventions in every aspect of his life.

Mercury was born in Zanzibar, a kingdom which would cease to exist within his lifetime, and spent most of his childhood in India before his family moved to England. His status as an immigrant is not given lavish attention, but from disputes with his family to being mistaken for Pakistani, it is definitely present. In many ways the story of Mercury’s early life is reflective of the struggles children of immigrants around the world face; the conflict between conforming their present surroundings and the expectations of their heritage.

Mercury, it seems, resolved this dichotomy by rejecting both. Musically and personally, he created a whole new identity for himself instead of accepting any that were offered to him. He broke all the rules. The movie showcases this by depicting the smallest details, from methods for composing music to his chronic tendency to show up late. In his very first performance in the movie, he dresses in women’s clothes and breaks the microphone off its stand because he finds it too limiting. “Formulas,” he says in response to criticism of the song Bohemian Rhapsody, “are a waste of time.”

Mercury also refused to accept the boundaries of limitations. From the start of the movie, we see him unapologetically aspiring for greater things after his day job moving luggage at the airport. He convinces a band about to give up taking a chance on not just him, but themselves. He convinces them to believe in music that defies categorization.

For being a film about one of history’s most famous rock bands and its famously flamboyant front man, the cinematography is rather tame, at least in the beginning. The dusty looking scenes where dialogue takes center stage creates more of a documentary feel. Slowly but very surely it builds to the climax of Queen’s performance for LiveAid. Here, just as with the real performance itself, nothing is spared and Mercury’s ability to captivate every single member of such a massive audience is beautifully recreated.

“The big difference is that unlike a concert movie, we’re trying to tell a story,” said cinematographer Tom Sigel in an interview with Motion Pictures Association of America. “There is the occasional point of view of the audience member, but really the great thing we can do in a movie and the thing that this story demands is you put the audience on the stage with the performer.”

The film strives to present an intimate portrait of who Freddie Mercury and the band Queen were rather than an experience of going to one of their shows, and it achieves that beautifully.