Precious Doll wrote:Dogman/Happy as Lazzaro - Italy
Italy would appear to have to good ones to choose from this year that are internationally know. Both happen to play at Cannes, both were well received and both one a prize each (Dogman - Actor) & Happy as Lazzaro - Screenplay). But Italy is notorious for going off and selecting some obscure film that nobody much outside of Italy has ever heard so we'll have to wait and see.
Between these two films I think Dogman is more to the Academy taste, however I think that Happy as Lazzaro is the better film and more deserving of the honour of representing Italy but it will have a harder time making the shortlist and more so the final five. It's such a delicate piece filmed at times in an almost dream world that rarely collides with the present. Just too delicate for the Academy's taste I would think, which is such a shame as it is a highly original and rewarding experience.
It's true that Italy has a tradition of sending to the Oscars movies that nobody out of Italy (and sometimes nobody in Italy either) had heard about. This time, though, they have followed Precious Doll's advice and picked Dogman. This is based on a famous - and at the time shocking - real story of an especially bloody Kidnapping and murder which took place in Rome's degraded outskirts. The director, one of our best, Matteo Garrone, obviously sides with the eventual killer, portrayed here as a naive, Quasimodo-like outcast. This has been done before, in the US especially, so I'm not sure that the movie - though definitely well-made - will seem very interesting there. A nomination is, I'd say, impossible.
Happy As Lazarus is admittedly less "easy", but at the same time a clearly artistic effort, and one which could have stood out in that context (and directed by a woman - Alice Rohrwacher - which these days might be a plus). Also supposedly based on a true story, it's set in a small rural community in Central Italy, completely cut off from civilization, and kept in slavery by a manipulative Countess. The first half deals mainly with the unlikely friendhip between the peasant Lazarus, simple and genuine, and the Countess0s unhappy son, and reminds one of Pasolini (minus the eroticism) and Ermanno Olmi. But the second half, with the community having to adapt to the not-less-cruel reality of a big contemporary city, is more interesting and personal - poignant and touching, with a pervasive sadness, a sense of missed opportunities and more than a bit of magical realism. It's not a perfect movie (and the ending isn't perfect), but it stays with you, and would have been a worthy candidate.