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Why ''Life Is Beautiful'' is a top tearjerker

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Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful: Everett Collection

Why ”Life Is Beautiful” is a top tearjerker

The uniqueness of writer-director-star Roberto Benigni’s Italian Oscar winner lies in the theory that by using comedy to enhance the highs, the low points emerge as that much more devastating. (Jury’s out on whether turning genocide into a fable is creative genius or cheap manipulation.) Benigni plays a father who shields his son from the horrors of a concentration camp by pretending it’s all a very elaborate game.

KLEENEX MOMENT Benigni convinces his boy to hide in a metal cabinet until no one is in sight, then, as he is marched past the cabinet at gunpoint, he plays soldier to avoid alarming his son. Nothing prepares us for the gunshots that follow.