Reviewed By Thom
Posted 07/05/99 07:12:58

"Magnificent and endearing."
5 stars (Awesome)

Who, but a group of lunatics, led by a man looking for personal redemption, could put on a performance of Mozart' s opera, Cosi Fani Tutte in a way that evokes the spirit of Mozart himself.

Mozart was not a serious man, but he was a serious artist. He was unconventional, made his own rules and understood enough about being human to be the human he wanted to be. Naturally, he was not liked, understood, or tolerated by many people in the "respectable" society that comprised his audience. But they loved his music.

Cosi works inside this interpretation of Mozart as a bohemian, who preferred the lunatic fringe as the source of an authentic, visceral, sensual, and spiritual humanity to the salon's of the aristocracy, which were cold, mannered and devoid of genuine or openly expressed humanity.

A local asylum for the mentally deranged is looking for a director for the annual variety show. An out of work actor/director who seems to be generally apathetic about his life and his work, applies for the job. He is looking for something that will bring him back into communion with the muse that breathes life into his spirit and he doesn't know that he is about to find it.

The only other person who comes for the job is an unqualified oaf with no professional experience. The choice naturally lands with the uninspired director. The administration of the asylum wants him to create a program that keeps the patients "in their range", which would be some soft-shoe pablum that doesn't excite the patients or overtax their evidenly limited abilities as humans. The patients, led by one outspoken man who has spent his life in institutions and has invented a fabulous personal history for himself, insists that they do a production of Cosi Fani Tutte.

Lewis (Ben Mendehlsen), who has just found a job after being unemployed and harangued by his girlfriend, wants to please the powers that be, but as a man true to the arts, he accepts, after some emotional pleading on the part of one of the patients, the challenge of producing Cosi.

The administration reluctantly agrees until one of the performers/patients burns down the playhouse and the show is cancelled. But the show, which has by that time come to represent symbolically, the reaching outside of ones range, in the case of the patients, towards wholeness or healing or integration into society, and in the case of the director, of reclaiming his muse and his artistic reason for being, has taken on its own life and the crew retire in secret to put the show on. They work tirelessly during the day practicing their dummy revue for the powers that be, while at night, rehearsing Cosi.

Stunning performances. This film is about triumph over not only adversity but also opression, self-imposed and externally imposed. It is a film about questioning boundaries, valuing humanity, reaching towards the unknown, and healing the human heart of brokenness and despair. It is a tribute to art as the path of creative self-realization and expression of the inner forces at work in our psyche. Art externalizes these forces as symbols of the great mysteries of being human, bringing us in touch with ourselves and by extension all of the world.

There is something ineffible about simply existing. And beyond that lies the heart. A free humanity has never seemed to find a comfortable resting place in a society, which prefers to lock up, deny or destroy anything that challenges its precarious order.

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