Roberto Benigni, often called Benigni, is one of the greatest comedians of all time. Born in 1938, he began his career in theater as a stuntman before breaking into films. Like many of the greatest comic performers of the past, Benigni has achieved almost cult status.
One of Roberto Benigni’s early films was “Dante Alighieri” (19 47), which was based on the story of the plague in Italy during the 15th century. A modern day version of this same plot can be found in the award winning film “The Secret”. After receiving an Oscar nomination for his work on this film, Benigni went on to star in other classic Italian films such as “Carnevale”, “The Godfather Part II”, and “Miguel”.
Another of Roberto Benigni’s finest works was “Ugetsto Buena Vista Familia” (Ugetsto Buena Vista, or Villa Of Love). This is a great example of a comic opera, since it takes place in Tuscany. It tells the story of two lovers who return from a long vacation to find that their beloved has died in their sleep. With unique set design, costumes, and music, it is no surprise that this film won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score.
After “Ugetsto Buena Vista Familia“, Benigni returned to his greatest accomplishment – his directing work on Corleone. Again with a unique style that combines elements of the surreal with reality, Corleone is considered one of the greatest films of all time. Starring in this film were Pierpaolo Pasolini, Vallejo, and Giancarlo Giannini. The movie was long awaited by both Italian critics and foreign viewers and ultimately became even more popular due to the release of the American version in theaters. Many of these same critics and fans praised the film, as it was different and very successful.
Benigni returned to film with the more personal and intense La Perito. This is the director’s greatest achievement, and arguably his best film of all time. Featuring Pierpaolo Pasolini, Vallejo, and Giancarlo Giannini, this film depicts the director at his most prolific form – a director at the height of his powers. Ultimately, La Perito is about the horrors of the holocaust, but it is also about the director struggling with personal demons.
Another of Benigni’s greatest films was “The Godfather”. This movie remains amongst the best of his career and remains the most popular film festival entry to this day. The film follows the life of Mario as he rises through the ranks at the Italian factory where he works (initially as an assistant to Mario’s father). Eventually becoming the head of the company (with immediate conflict), Mario eventually falls in love with a Jewish woman named Rosa…
One of Benigni’s most underrated films, “The Age of Cinema” is a fascinating look into the world of film during the early days of cinema, when films were often too expensive for the mainstream audience. Set against the backdrop of the collapse of the First World War, this film showcases the brilliance of Carl Laemmle’s stylized photography and the bold colors that he favored. Also featuring Edith Head, this film also stars Mario Lanza, Joanna Marotta, and Edrio. This Italian film festival favorite is definitely worth the watch.
Lastly, we have the brilliant “The Tuttodant” from the television show La Traviata, which you may not have seen. The movie chronicles the life of a young man (Dante), who goes on to become an important figure in Italian politics, even though he always felt like he was falling away. It is said that the reason why he was able to achieve all of this is due to his dedication as a tutor to one of the country’s most noted writers, Francesco Parelli. Ultimately, it is a brilliant example of how the film industry can take risks despite the odds against, and the talent of a certain individual like Dante can go unnoticed in favor of a more traditional character.