Day 11; the night before the Raindance gala and I will post the 4 (yes 4!) films I saw in one day.
The Art of Happiness.
To call The Art of Happiness simply an animated film, would be dull. It’s a cinematic wonder that, for a début, can impressively be assembled with the poignancy and beauty that we would usually get from a Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli productions.
The title is lifted from a book by the Dalai Lama and psychiatrist Howard Cutler in which the former was asked a series of questions exploring the concept of happiness and attaining it by altering ones thoughts and actions.
We’re introduced to two brothers. Sergio, a retired concert pianist now a frustrated taxi driver, is living in the trash ridden Naples and cursing his lot. His eldest brother, Alfredo, is a Buddhist monk, long since left his native home and his musical partnership with his young brother for the open spiritual spaces of an Indian Buddhist retreat. Their lives up until the point we meet them is shared through a series of flashbacks (a lovely cutaway of a toy car as it journey’s on the messy floor of their childhood bedroom, ties in perfectly with Sergio’s real journey through the Italian city), and beautifully scripted monologues about missed opportunities, political adversary and, of course, the quest for happiness. However don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a spiritual film; in fact not much happens by way of character development, but it’s more of a character study of a man of a certain age, musing on his life since past. It’s also surprisingly upbeat and funny.
Sergio and Alfredo share a bond so familiar in sibling relationships. Adoration, admiration, rivalry and never-ending love. They are gifted musicians that were, for a time, on the cusp of fame. But after Alfredo unexpectedly leaves for Dharamsala, India, Sergio looses his ambition to go on enjoying playing music without him. Then it is revealed that Alfredo has recently died, making the flashbacks of them as children through to adulthood, ever more powerful as Sergio grapples to make sense of what it means to be happy.
Some of the characters that have no real connection to Sergio’s story, feel like fillers, and a little pointless; as if the creators were afraid the audience would tire of the lead or perhaps wanted to exploit his status as a taxi driver. However the film hardly suffers for it; accompanied by a gorgeous soundtrack, composed by producer Antonio Fresa and Luigi Scialdone, the music contributes heavily to its poignancy and colour and the use of real and recent Napoli events and flashbacks helps to engage and drive the story successfully.
The day the film premièred at Raindance, the creators had to nip out of the screening to collect their best debut feature award. They, and everyone who had a hand in making it deserved it and so much more. If you can catch it somewhere near you, then I implore you to. It’s seriously a work of art.
Offcial selection for:
Images sourced from: http://www.raindancefestival.org