You Laugh (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, Crime Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - Italy   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

Written and directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, and based on short stories by Luigi Pirandello, Tu Ridi (aka You Laugh) is a well-made but ultimately unsatisfying work. While it presents morally and emotionally complex stories, it doesn't approach the power of the Tavianis' best work. The prologue, not included in the original release of the film, features Pirandello (Omero Antonutti, who also played the author in the epilogue to Kaos) winning the Nobel Prize and reminiscing about the unsuccessful opening of +Six Characters in Search of an Author. This brief segment seems tacked on and incomplete, and the film is stronger without it. The next segment, "Felice," is buoyed by the performance of Antonio Albanese in the title role as a reluctantly retired opera singer who finds no joy in his waking life, but has fits of uncontrollable laughter in his sleep. Albanese strikes just the right note of sad-eyed soulfulness, and the final confrontation of this broken man with the cruel Migliori (Luca Zingaretti) is the most well-conceived and satisfying scene in the film. The segment is also well-shot, but it's lugubriously paced, and it drags on too long. The last story, "Two Kidnappings," is also greatly enhanced by one of its performances. In this case, it's the energetic and likeable turn of Lello Arena as Rocco, who has reluctantly kidnapped his young nephew Vincenzo (Steve Spedicato) in order to keep the boy's mobster father from testifying against his associates. There's a touching chemistry between Rocco and Vincenzo, but unfortunately the bulk of the segment is taken up by the dramatization of an earlier kidnapping that happened at the same site, and this anti-climactic episode isn't as strong as its contemporary counterpart. Tu Ridi is an uneven work, offering some rich rewards in a mildly frustrating mix.