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The Way We Laughed
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
THE WAY WE LAUGHED is clearly one of the finest films ever made about the intensity of familial connections in general, and brotherly love in particular. Gianni Amelio is a sensitive director not only to storyline, but to character development, scenic atmosphere, capturing monumental conversations in the mere lingering of the camera on the eyes of the characters, pacing, and in inspiring his actors.
The story is about two brothers from Sicily - Pietro, the younger brother has left home for Turin, Italy creating a life style and appearance of an upper class lad, and the older brother Giovanni who is illiterate, real, warm and a laborer whose life is focused on the pride he feels for his younger brother's intellectual achievements: Giovanni is just arriving in Turin as the film opens in 1958. The story spans 6 years, is divided into six chapters - one day in each of the 6 years - and it is from these short glimpses that we are asked to follow the interaction of the two brothers.
For all of Giovanni's warmth and open love for his younger brother Pietro, the Younger Pietro appears secretive, has odd habits, is quietly deceitful, yet accepts the hospitable and financial love and assistance from his brother. There are long stretches of silence between the brothers about which we are not informed, and events transpire that lead Pietro to become a successful student and Giovanni to become a Padron for immigrants, gradually raising himself to be a married landowner.
In the 5th chapter we see a conflict that involves both brothers and a third 'victim' and it is this unfortunate crime that forever alters the lives of both brothers. This turning point is magnified in the last chapter as the successful Giovanni has just had a son named for his brother and the brother is summoned to his large home in the Po River Valley to stand as Godfather to his nephew. But the change in the once proud Pietro shows a role reversal and while some may consider he has been in an institution for drugs or something else, he actually has been in Reform School, having lost all his joy for life, and now will proceed to prison. Though the reason for his downfall is not clear, it appears in retrospect that he has taken the blame for Giovanni's crime - perhaps the more compassionate standard of brotherly love imaginable. At any rate, the film leaves us with the concept that there is no way to measure the depth of love in familial bonds between two brothers. There is no right, there is no wrong, there is only love.
This is visually a dramatic epic that manages to capture the grit and grime of the living conditions of the poor working class in Turin, the wondrous plays of light in the deserted streets of Turin at night, and the redemptive beauty of the sun-drenched Po River Valley where the films comes to an end. Enrico Lo Verso is amazingly fine as Giovanni, walking with all the pride of Sicily and the humility of the uneducated. As Pietro, Francesco Guiffrida captures every facet of this enigmatic character and slowly wins our compassion for the road he has elected to take. THE WAY WE LAUGHED is a brilliant achievement and another example of the extraordinary work of Italian cinematic talent.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2004
This film is one of the most remarkable and touching movies to come along in decades and deserves to be seen by anyone who appreciates the craft of movie making.
The film, directed by Gianni Amelio, and set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, centers on the relationship between two Sicilian brothers in Turin: the older brother Giovanni (Enrico Lo Verso) and his younger sibling Pietro (Francesco Guiffrida). Pietro is too slick for his own good; he's an operator who has clearly been raised to believe he's smarter than everyone else around him. He lies, cuts class and takes care only of himself. At the beginning of the film, when he ducks out of meeting his brother at the train depot, we learn that Pietro is embarrassed by his older brother, Giovanni, an illiterate laborer who has traveled up from Sicily to be with his brother.
Pietro's motivations are lost entirely on Giovanni, who loves his younger brother unconditionally. Giovanni takes a series of dead end jobs to help support Pietro's schooling, not knowing that his younger brother is the worst student in class, cuts class constantly, and has no regard for the opportunities he's been given. Giovanni is motivated entirely by providing for his younger brother's success, and indeed, he tells all of his co-workers at his various backbreaking jobs about his brother the student, and what a tremendous success he is.
"The Way We Laughed" doesn't deal with time in a straight linear fashion, and it moves ahead by years at a time. By the film's conclusion, Giovanni has become through his hard work a successful landowner with a large spread in the Po River Valley. His brother, Pietro, has had some kind of a breakdown, or maybe has become a drug addict (it's not entirely clear), but nonetheless, Giovanni still takes care of him and seeks to provide for him. In the touching final scenes of the film, Giovanni brings his dazed, mute younger brother to his estate to meet his wife and children.
The themes of "The Way We Laughed" have been around for centuries, but they have seldom been handled with such beauty or evocation. The exultation of the hard working and illiterate, but ultimately good-hearted and honest older brother over the shifty, selfish and, in the end, self-destructive younger brother, could easily have come off as preachy and abrasively conservative; that is decidedly not the case with this film. Indeed, in seeing this film again and thinking about it, the movie reminds me very much of Flannery O'Connor's short story, "Everything That Rises Must Converge," not only in the juxtaposition of its themes, but also in the deftness with which those themes are handled. It's no easy thing to handle the millennia-old prodigal son theme, and still wring something fresh out of it, but that's what Gianni Amelio does with this film.
One other aspect of "The Way We Laughed" that deserves special mention is the cinematography, which is lush and beautiful, and which sets a perfect tone for the various acts of the movie: Turin is dark, wet and foreboding, the Po River Valley is colorful, rich and sunny. etc...
In sum, "The Way We Laughed" is a movie that any cineaste must see and will most certainly enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 20, 2008
Movie is set in Turin, Italy in the post-war poverty era of the 50's and 60's. Two Sicilian brothers immigrate to Turin - the elder is illiterate and the younger with promise to become a teacher and professor.

Movie is divided into six stories over the 1958 to 1964 time period titled (1) Arrivals, (2) Betrayals, (3) Money, (4) Blood, (5) Families. Giovanni, the older brother, moves from a kind hearted man in poverty to a tough labor boss who acquires influence (and not always with clean hands) to a family man trying to put his unsavory (?) past behind him.

Meanwhile Pietro, the younger brother, struggles to meet his older brother's admiration and expectations - he's shifty, he lies, he cuts class, he steals, he fails school - and all w/o his older brother's knowledge who is toiling in low paid jobs to pay for his brother's expenses. Pietro eventually eventually pulls it out and becomes the brother taking the high road.

The Brothers' love for one another, the secrets that they keep from each other, the different path that each man takes - all make this a fascinating story. However, I found that the movie left a number of nagging gaps for me in the story-line and character understanding/definition driving my movie rating.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2005
Nei panni di Amelio non avrei chiamato il film con quell'insulso titolo che non dice e non c'entra niente con la storia raccontata, io lo avrei chiamato: "Genesi di un fenomeno mafioso".

A quell'epoca la popolazione italiana usava ancora, nel linguaggio corrente il proprio dialetto. Cio' rendeva piu' evidente la diversita' di chi emigrava dal sud al nord che in certi casi diventava completa incomprensibilita'. Vi era poi un evidente differenza di stato sociale: di vera poverta' per l'emigrante, di precario e timido benessere per gli abitanti del nord. Ma proprio la precarieta' di quel pallido benessere appena raggiunto dopo i disastri della guerra, rendeva gli abitanti del nord timorosi e ipercritici verso i connazionali del sud che arrivavano pieni di speranze e illusioni spesso eccessive. Su di loro si e' quindi puntato un razzismo, purtroppo tra italiani, che e' durato per tutta una generazione e oltre.

Per opporsi al razzismo che li emarginava i meridionali si sono trovati costretti ad organizzarsi in qualcosa di simile a delle confraternite, dove i piu' capaci, quelli che disponevano di qualche amicizia, provvedevano a creare le condizioni per poter trovare uno spazio vitale. Ma gli emigranti, soprattutto quelli dalla Sicilia, non erano impregnati solo del loro dialetto, lo erano anche della loro cultura, dove la presenza della mafia era gia' dominante.

La mafia nasce appunto in sicilia come difesa della popolazione contro il latifondismo che si impadroniva di tutta la ricchezza esistente, ma all'origine era una organizzazione dedita alla solidarieta' tra i suoi adepti non una organizzazione criminale. E' solo a partire dagli anni "30, e dall'America (Chicago, ecc.), che parte la degenerazione verso il fenomeno mafioso che conosciamo oggi.

Nel film, il limitato benessere raggiunto da Giovanni attraverso la sua organizzazione, e' dovuto alla sua bravura nell' organizzare i suoi conterranei; nel trovar loro un alloggio, un lavoro, un modo per inserirsi in quella societa' che non li voleva. Ma non era un "pizzo", una tangente, era una liberalita' che i suoi conterranei volentieri gli pagavano per il servizio che lui (nominato addirittura presidente) svolgeva.

Ma e' impossibile non vedere in questa organizzazione la cellula embrionale di una cosca mafiosa.

L'analisi approfondita di questo film fa intuire quindi che i due fenomeni, razzismo e mafia, sono quasi sempre strettamente intercorrelati.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2010
Beautifully photographed, and mostly very well acted (with a few over-the-top moments), this is a complex, odd, and often fascinating look at the relationship between two brothers in Italy.

It shows one day in their life each year between 1958 and 1964, avoiding movie convention by not filling in the details of what's gone on during the time in between. It's left to us to figure out, or imagine how they got to where they are.

While brave and challenging,I was sometimes frustrated that the characters never quite fully develop, occasionally feeling more sketchy and symbolic than full blooded.

Early on I excitedly felt I might be watching a masterpiece. But as it went evolved, I felt (to quote Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenberg) `guilty for not liking it more'. Still, a strong and original enough film that I'd like to revisit it one day, and see if it grows even deeper on 2nd viewing.
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on July 18, 2007
Amelio's despondent tale of two brothers seems to have been yanked straight out of Vittorio De Sica's playbook, with a dash of Biblical fraternal conflict to complete the picture. Lo Verso is a mesmerizing presence, as he touchingly conveys Giovanni's seemingly limitless love and naiveté. So, too, is Giuffrida, playing the mysterious, hard-to-read Pietro, who may not be everything he represents to Giovanni. A fascinating, puzzling study of loyalty and family bonds twisted by postwar Italy's unforgiving pace, "Laughed" will leave its mark on your heart.
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on October 1, 2007
A great film about poverty, morality, loyalty, love and the injurious effects of concealment and shame.
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on June 9, 2015
A very good movie
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2004
This is one of the best movies I've seen. The acting was great. The story takes a twist, but I think everyone knows what's going on. This is great Italian cinema. The cinematography is simply beautiful.
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