Picks and Pans Review: Life Is Beautiful

updated 11/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Roberto Benigni, Giorgio Cantarini

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In directing (and cowriting) this film about the Holocaust, Benigni, Italy's leading film comedian, did something daring and strange. He took an event of unimaginable horror and, so to speak, inverted it, transforming a tragic nightmare into a simply told fable that concludes with a moral: Love cannot be destroyed, love conquers death. The result, amazingly enough, is a very good movie—sweet, sad, even funny. The best Italian import since 1994's II Postino, it deserves the same success.

A Jewish bookseller (Benigni) is sent from Rome to a concentration camp with his wife and young son (Cantarini). Left with the boy in his care, the father convinces him that the whole deadly ordeal is an elaborate game. Stay out of sight long enough, the father explains, and the game is won—with a tank as the first prize. Do they live happily ever after? See the film and find out. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: A beautiful movie

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