“Happy As Lazzaro”: A Magical Realist Fairy Tale Lost In a Neorealist Folk Story

Critics love Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro because it’s a magic realist tale enshrouded in neo-realist garb, a wolf in sheep’s clothing of symbolism and allegory.

I have no patience for movies or symbols that refuse to define themselves or get lost in intelligent constructs without an emotional base. I am a film fan first and a critic second, the difference being that the fan lives to feel and be moved while the critic lives to think about it unemotionally. For the fan, the great movies are the ones that make them feel— for the critic, the films that make them think.

Happy As Lazzaro is a critics film and thus not one of my critical darlings. It is a story of peasants and landowners caught in the capitalist vise with Lazzaro (Italian for Lazarus)— the wide eye naïf who falls, almost dies and is resurrected many years on into a poorer more miserable and technological world where nothing has changed politically— the middle ground that is suppose to connect all the magical realism with the neo-realism.

Rohrwacher is grandly and ambitiously trying to make a film that connects Italian cinema’s past with its present and maybe future. I just wasn’t quite feeling it.

Leave magical realism to the Mexican Latin American contingent (the Del Toros, the Inarritus, the Cuarons) because they know how to think and feel it best. Until the new Italian cinema can make one ache, cry and thoughtfully react like a Visconti film; wonder and be moved like a Fellini fable, or be horrified, outraged, and repulsed to your moral and intellectual core like a Pasolini sacrilege, the new Italian cinema should follow a different path of their own design.

All photos courtesy of Netflix.