An inspired motion picture masterpiece, Life Is Beautiful was nominated for 7 Academy Awards - winning 3 Oscars including one for Best Actor Roberto Benigni. In this extraordinary tale, Guido (Benigni) - a charming but bumbling waiter who's gifted with a colorful imagination and an irresistible sense of humor - has won the heart of the woman he loves and created a beautiful life for his young family. But then, that life is threatened by World War II...and Guido must rely on those very same strengths to save his beloved wife and son from an unthinkable fate! Honored with an overwhelming level of critical acclaim, this truly exceptional, utterly unique achievement will lift your spirits and capture your heart!
Believe it or not, watching 'Life is Beautiful' on Blu-ray was the first time I'd ever seen the universally beloved movie. It was simply one of those films that everyone had seen, which had somehow escaped me year after year. I meant to watch it, but never got around to it. I'm glad I finally got the opportunity to see it. It's clear I was missing something great.
'Life is Beautiful' attempts something that, at the outset, seems impossible. How does one laugh at the Holocaust without the movie seeming completely demeaning to those involved in such a travesty? I'm still not entirely sure how director Roberto Benigni pulls it off, but he does. With the cheerful spirit of early musicals like 'Singing in the Rain,' 'Life is Beautiful' exudes positivity even under the most dire of circumstances. The reason why the movie is so full of hope is because of its lead character, Guido.
Guido (Benigni) is a happy man (which in hindsight seems to be one of the greatest understatements I've ever made). In the midst of one of the world's worst genocides, Guido still peers at life through rose-tinted glasses.
Before the war starts Guido is working at a local hotel. He meets a young lady, who's already dating a high ranking public official. That doesn't stop Guido though. He'll stop at nothing to woo Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), the woman of his dreams. His romantic gestures are gleefully over the top, but they work. They soon have a son named Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini) whom they love dearly.
When Guido and his family are rounded up by the Nazis and shipped off to concentration camps, he doesn't lose his encouraging spirit. Guido is an eternal optimist, something that is severely lacking in movies in general. It's refreshing to come across a character so upbeat, so full of life, even though he has every reason in the world not to be.
Guido's source of cheerfulness springs from his son Giosué. Hoping that his son doesn't find out exactly what's happening and how terrible their situation has become, Guido tries to make a game out of it for him. Anything to keep his son's wits about him, and also to keep him safe.
It's endlessly endearing watching Guido try and convince his son Giosué that this is all a simple game. What a perfect way to keep a young boy's attention without frightening him. With death and destruction all around, Guido is still able to keep his family safe and happy. His can-do attitude lifts him above the others. There are a few scenes in the movie where Guido tries to control things by wiggling his fingers and chanting. In essence this is what he does the entire movie. Instead of letting his dismal situation get him down, he wills it to be something different. Even though he's been stuck in a concentration camp with death looming over him every day he still finds time to smile and reassure his child that everything's going to be okay.
'Life is Beautiful' is a life-affirming movie. One that lets us know that if Guido could find the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of the Holocaust then we to should be able to find hope in our darkest times.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Life is Beautiful' is a Miramax film that was released on Blu-ray by Lionsgate. It comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase and is labeled as a Region A release. The movie has been pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc.
Lionsgate's 1080p presentation isn't going to wow any videophiles out there, but I'm not sure it's meant to. Even though the movie was shot in 1997 (not long ago, relatively) it still has a very soft look about it. Not only does it feel like early musicals in the way it's told, but in the way it looks also. Details aren't as sharp as other films, but again, the softness lends itself well to the somewhat whimsical feel of the movie.
Color is a bit muted most of the way through the movie. The neon green painted horse offers really the brightest color you'll see in the entire movie. The green does come with a nice bit of "pop," but the rest of the movie is very understated when it comes to its color palette. Skintones are often washed out, which really was my biggest complaint with the way the film looked. If anything skintones could've been rendered to look a little more naturalistic.
Compression noise and artifacts are minimal. There is some digital noise, especially during the movie's beginning, which quite possibly could detract from viewing. However, from then on, there's really no significant noise or artifacts to draw your attention to throughout the rest of the presentation. I believe fans of the film will be happy with the way this looks in high definition.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 featured on this release is a pretty standard sounding affair. That's not to say it's bad by any means, there's a lot of subtle nuance about it that makes it a great listen, but it isn't going to top anyone's demo material list for audio presentations.
Dialogue is always clear, which probably wasn't that hard to achieve since Guido shouts most of his lines. The nuanced track excels in producing lifelike rear activity during the busier times in the camps like: as the prisoners exit the trains and are quickly ushered off in every direction by the Nazi guards or when the chaos of the camp the night before the American troops liberate the occupants. People can be heard crying and screaming in the rear channels, along with crisp sounding gunshots ringing out through the sound stage.
Nicola Piovani's Oscar-winning score is given ample room to breathe here, offering an encompassing feel as his original music surrounds on all sides. LFE is very light, even during the more action-packed scenes. Like I said, it isn't a mix that will really floor you, but fans will love it just the same.
I'm so glad I finally got around to watching 'Life is Beautiful!' Now I understand what all the fuss is about. The world of film is often filled with pessimistic characters, so it's nice to see an optimist who really can make a difference. The way Guido views the world helps more than just him. It's what keeps his son safe and alive. With a decent audio and video package, I'd recommend this release to anyone.