Series: DOLCEMENTE - A Guide to Italian Cinema PART 1: LAZZARO FELICE

We owe much of what we love about great cinema to the Italians. Always brave, daring, and obsessed with aesthetics and technique, Italian cinema has given us an incredible canon of films, from Federico Fellini’s painfully stylish films like 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita, to Dario Argento’s Giallo classics Like Suspiria and Deep Red, and the works of Italian contemporaries like Luca Guadagnino and Alice Rohrwacher. In order to better understand the multitude of Italian films, we have employed the aid of Amanda Ballerini, an Italian aesthete, cinephile, and writer, who will give Women and Film her guide to Italian movies, past and present.


by: Amanda Ballerini

Without giving too much away, I will first give a brief synopsis of the film…There is a community of peasants living out of time and under the rule of “The Queen of Cigarettes”. There is Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), a boy who lives with them and contributes a lot to the community, and Tancredi (Luca Chikovani), the mistress's son. Then something happens, a surprise, but not for Lazzaro, and suddenly we're in the suburbs of the big city..... Looking for a friend and perhaps for some love?

Cinema has little to do with, "reality". In order to tell Italian realities, which are often beyond imagination, filmmakers resort to hybrid and antirealist forms. This is the legacy of Italian cinema, which is still alive but is less vibrant than it once was. Alice Rohrwacher’s 2018 film, Lazzaro Felice, restores many of the tenants of Italian film and reignites the fierce creativity that defines the country’s cinematic canon. Here are my 10 reasons to watch or re-watch (many and many times) Lazzaro Felice.

  1. The first reason is to get to know Lazzaro, the main character. He is played a young man, Adriano Tardiolo, who is not a professional actor, which yields one of the simplest, most intense and authentic characters in contemporary (Italian) cinema which will touch the heart of anyone. Alice Rohrwacher is a director who works with her actors and shapes their characters with them, not the other way around. This organic approach is apparent throughout all her movies (Le Meraviglie, Corpo Celeste), not least of all in Tardiolo’s performance here.


2. Because it's a fairy tale, the stories we learned and loved as children- and still crave as adults. Fairy tales are cruel too, and dark, and more often than not have a hidden message meant to teach us a lesson about humanity and morality. This moralism partnered with otherworldly realms is what makes fairy tales to salient and memorable, and Lazzaro Felice is no exception; it is a modern-day fairy tale that is not easily forgotten.

3. The film pays homage to many of the original "strands" of Italian cinema overlap: neo-realism, bad comedy, a fairy tale narrative in the style of Ermanno Olmi (The Tree of Wooden Clogs, Il Posto), while remaining to be singular and bold in its story and style.

4. Made in the recent tradition of some of the most notable and watchable Italian films, Lazzaro Felice mixes scripted cinema and documentary, actors and ordinary people, reality and facade. Other films in this genre include Bella e perduta (Pietro Marcello, 2015), the "American" films by Roberto Minervini, I tempi felici verranno presto (Alessandro Comodin, 2016), and the films of Michelangelo Frammartino, to name a few.


5. The film is created by the two "terrible sisters" of Italian cinema, director Alice Rohrwacher, and actress Alba Rohrwacher, portraying one of the protagonists, Antonia.

6. Because when a movie can make you cry, reflect upon life and reality, and also annoy you a little, well, then there's still a spark of utility in cinema.

7. Lazzaro Felice is a very large production compared to other contiguous films but manages to maintain, even in the majesty of the screenplay, the flicker of improvisation (or so it seemed to me). We need improvisation, in the cinema machine as in music and in life. That’s how we keep things going.


8. Because it goes back and forth in time without interruption, in lands disconnected from time and space, in a city that is an amalgamation of different cities, Milan and Turin, that becomes a unique set. It is a place both completely foreign and unfamiliar, but completely logical and believable as the setting of this world.

9. The plot and its multitude of interpretations, most of which written by online critics are misleading and miss the point. A film of this nature must not be bound by the typical parameters of narrative and the inevitable projections by critics and viewers as to the “true” meaning of the film. Regarding the so-called interpretations (worse word ever created, in my opinion), I side with Susan Sontag, and everyone needing an explanation for this movie didn't “get” it, and likely viewed it through the wrong lens.

10. In the end, Lazzaro Felice does precisely what cinema should do: transport us to another dimension, to another time, to an off-road place where it can be nice to get lost maybe even if it’s a little uncomfortable. The symbology employed, beginning with the name Lazzaro, meaning “wolf”, reminds us of something legendary and essential, something that we have lost but that we should rediscover because we are nothing more than mammals, after all. Losing contact with the wolf and fearing him/her, can cause a very hard hit on our pseudo-modern lives, and it is important to reconnect with the animal that resides within us all. It is impressive when a film can make us feel something so timeless and crucial, and Lazzaro Felice accomplishes this and more.

“Humans are like beasts, setting them free would make them realise they have been caged before” - Marchesa

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Amanda Ballerini

is a 20 something girl on her way to becoming a woman.

She comes from a small unknown paese in the north of Italy but lives most of her time in big cities.

With her main obsessions being cinema, art and fashion, she is open minded about everything new and passionate about small things of life.

Daisy Stackpole