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The King of Laughter - Film Review (ST. ALi Italian Film Festival 2022)

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by Maria-MPG Narratives (subscribe)
I'm a Freelance Writer - MPG Communications and Author - Maria P Frino (pen name).
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This biopic is a theatrical extravaganza

The King of Laughter starring Toni Servillo, Maria Nazionale, Cristiana Dell'Anna and Antonia Truppo is an Italian biopic. This movie has won awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Nastri d'Argento Awards, also known as The Silver Awards.

I watched this movie, which is part of the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival, not realising it is based on a true story. And don't I love me a good biopic.

Eduardo Scarpetta, played by Toni Servillo, was the king of Neapolitan popular theatre during the early 20th century and this biopic, full of angst, drama, adultery and amazing theatre, is a tribute to him and his unusual family.

Set in late 1800s Naples, Scarpetta's hilarious plays are presented night after night to full houses of appreciative fans. He takes all this in while adoring the spotlight. Spoken in traditional Neapolitan dialect, this is one movie that needs subtitles. I have heard this dialect for most of my life as my family hails from near Naples, but at times I struggled to understand what they were saying. I would say they kept close to the dialect of the time. However, the writing is exceptional, making this biopic an over-the-top production of classic Italian theatre.

Toni Servillo is brilliant as the self-absorbed father and uncle of his legitimate and illegitimate brood. He portrays Eduardo as the womaniser who lavishes his family with opulence in his grand villa where he lives with his wife, played by Maria Nazionale. This is a true story so the surprising element for me was that she accepted his infidelity and allowed everyone to live together.

When he was at his most popular, Eduardo watched a play by Gabriele D'Annunzio, touted at the time to be Italy's greatest poet. Eduardo decides to do a parody of this play for his own company. He approaches D'Annunzio for permission to perform his version and is given verbal approval. With the original being dark and tragic, his version will make audiences laugh. However, on the first night of the performance, Eduardo is accused of plagiarism. The ensuing court case that takes years is Italy's first case of this type. Unfortunately for Eduardo, it could mean disaster for his company and his family.

This movie was a bit long for me, Italian filmmakers tend to like long, dramatic scenes using characters' faraway looks. Still, it was enjoyable and it is a good story. Tickets for this movie and others in the festival are available on the website here. The trailer is courtesy of this website too.
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Why? Enjoy an award winning biopic of classic Italian theatre
When: 13 September to 16 October 2022
Where: Palace cinemas
Cost: Price of a movie ticket
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