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Review: You Laugh (1998)

Directed by: , Vittorio Taviani | 100 minutes | drama | Actors: , Giuseppe Cederna, Luca Zingaretti, , Elena Ghiaurov, , , , , , Ludovico Caldereda, Roberto Fuzio, , Luciano Virgilio, , , Biancamaria D’Amato, Alessandra Costanzo, , , , , , Nanà Torbica, , Elvira Anna, Donatella Furino, Maurilio Scaduto, ,

‘Tu ridi’ by the Italian brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani is the film adaptation of two stories by the Sicilian writer Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) and a sequel to their earlier Pirandello adaptation ‘KAOS’. In contrast to that film, ‘Tu ridi’ was much less well received, which is probably mainly due to the depressed tone and the ending of both segments, which can be called anything but cheerful. The title is a direct quote from the first segment of the film, when Mariska (Elena Ghiaurov) tells her husband that he was laughing again that night. ‘Tu ridi’ in Dutch means “you laugh”.

As mentioned, there are two segments: ‘Felice’ and ‘I due sequestri’ (the two kidnappings), where the last segment actually consists of two separate stories, so that there are in fact three short films that touch roughly the same themes. The first story ‘Felice’ has something more tragicomic about it, with a beautiful role of Antonio Albanese as Felice (“happy”) who is utterly miserable as the accountant of the theater where he once celebrated triumphs as a baritone. His wife doesn’t understand his laughter and regularly scolds him in her own language, at which he can only splutter if she will please berate him in Italian. It is a wry kind of humor that the Taviani brothers aim for, especially when Felice’s limping colleague Tobis (Giuseppe Cederna) is introduced. Tobis needs a stick to walk and every morning when he climbs a set of stairs, he is harassed by three men (one of which is the theater boss). It is a sad situation, which also becomes unpleasant for Felice herself when he finds out why he has to laugh so much at night. Not out of cheerfulness, as it turns out. When Felice leaves Rome after his marriage has come to an end, a new hope seems to arise for him. But somewhere you can already sense in your clogs that this is a short-lived revival in a desolate life. who also becomes unpleasant for Felice when he finds out why he has to laugh so much at night. Not out of cheerfulness, as it turns out. When Felice leaves Rome after his marriage has come to an end, a new hope seems to arise for him. But somewhere you can already sense in your clogs that this is a short-lived revival in a desolate life. who also becomes unpleasant for Felice when he finds out why he has to laugh so much at night. Not out of cheerfulness, as it turns out. When Felice leaves Rome after his marriage has come to an end, a new hope seems to arise for him. But somewhere you can already sense in your clogs that this is a short-lived revival in a desolate life.

The moment ‘Felice’ leaves the viewer slightly melancholy, there is a rough transition to the next segment ‘I due sequestri’, in which a boy receives a computer from his uncle, with which he can make the most beautiful drawings. It is a misleading opening, because the “uncle” is actually his kidnapper and the boy is the son of a regretful person. The purpose of the kidnapping is to make sure that the father in prison doesn’t say anything to Justice. This story is intertwined with another kidnapping that takes place a hundred years earlier, when an old country doctor (Turi Ferro) is kidnapped by three brothers in the same mountains. He soon recognizes the boys and when it turns out that the doctor’s family cannot afford the ransom, the brothers’ father decides that the doctor should stay with them indefinitely. Here too the story seems to be given a more cheerful twist, but soon the misery returns in a sad denouement. This sad ending is surpassed by the outcome of the contemporary kidnapping story. This leaves the viewer with a somewhat bad taste in the mouth because of so much misery. There is very little to laugh about during the playing time of ‘Tu ridi’. Or it must be a grim laugh, because the humor with which the film is seasoned is ink and ink black. The acting of Albanian and Ferro in particular is excellent and it is not difficult to empathize with their worries. The segments are beautifully portrayed by Giuseppe Lanci, who is helped by the natural beauty of the Italian landscape.

‘Tu ridi’ is een sterke bewerking van Pirandello’s werk, die weet te overtuigen en indruk maakt. Jammer genoeg blijven het twee segmenten en drie verhalen, die thematisch elkaar raken, maar feitelijk gezien beter los van elkaar bekeken kunnen worden. De keuze om de verhalen te groeperen als één film, pakt niet zo goed uit. De toonzetting zal zeker niet bij iedereen in de smaak vallen, maar wie zich daarop instelt, zal toch een zekere voldoening uit de film halen. De broers Taviani wonnen de prijs voor “beste regisseur” op het filmfestival “Mar de la Plata” in Argentinië.

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