The King of Laughter

Directed by Mario Martone
Film Movement
2021
133 Minutes
Italy, Spain
Italian
Biography, Drama
Not Rated

Naples, 1904: Italian theatre is thriving, and comic actor, Eduardo Scarpetta is the box office king. Known in the Neapolitan theater for his cheeky alter egos, Scarpetta’s larger-than-life stage productions were matched only by his eccentric personal life. Composed of wives, partners, lovers, legitimate and illegitimate children (including a young Eduardo De Filippo, famed Neapolitan playwright), Scarpetta’s home situation resembled one of his comedies more than a traditional family. At the height of his popularity, the comedian risked everything by staging a parody of the great Italian poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio. Booed and hissed from the stage by younger rivals, Scarpetta was sued for plagiarism, leading to the first ever copyright lawsuit in Italy. Despite legal troubles and familial strife, Scarpetta fought not only for his craft but for his legacy as one of the great thespians of Italian theater.

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  • "The King of Laughter is a feast of a film.... It’s a dazzling and technically brilliant feat, the work of an ambitious, experienced and passionate director. "
    Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter
  • "The King of Laughter avails itself of a classic set-up but benefits from the lightness of comedy. It won’t disappoint those expecting a paradigmatic story about art, power, betrayal and passion, not least for the high-quality actors in its cast, the musicality of the Neapolitan dialect (which sounds as if it were made to be recited), the sumptuous set design offered up by Giancarlo Muselli and Carlo Rescigno, the costumes created by Ursula Patzak, the amber hues applied by Swiss master Renato Berta and the beautiful songs of the era."
    Camillo De Marco, Cineuropa
  • "The King of Laughter is an impeccably made period drama superbly conjures up the atmosphere of the era. Indeed, the craft on show is extremely impressive. As is Servillo’s majestic central performance. Events and players all revolve round his magnetic presence. In many ways, Scarpetta’s life was more extraordinary than any play, spawning a theatrical dynasty and leaving a lasting legacy. Mario Martone’s film manages to capture this in all its glory. "
    Rob Aldam, Backseat Mafia
  • "Mario Martone’s big, brash, garishly frosted celebration cake of a biopic....Everyone involved seems to be having the very best of times, tumbling onto screen with the breathless energy of a community theater crew given a very generous spotlight."
    Guy Lodge, Variety
  • "Teeming with staging lucidity, a dynamic pace and some intentional excess, this is a tasty portraiture of the theater buff whose clownish acting is taken to a hilarious effect during a memorable court session. A spikily funny watch."
    Filipe Freitas, Always Good Movies
Nominated
Golden Lion
Venice Film Festival
Official Selection
Seattle International Film Festival
Official Selection
Open Roads New Italian Cinema Film Festival