fri 24/05/2019

Loro review – hedonism must have an end | reviews, news & interviews

Loro review – hedonism must have an end

Loro review – hedonism must have an end

Toni Servillo brilliant again as Sorrentino’s singular Berlusconi

Kasia Smutniak as 'Queen Bee' Kira with Him (Berlusconi, played by Toni Servillo)

"Them" - the "loro" of the title (with a further play on “l’oro”, gold) - denotes the mostly sleazy opportunists willing to use and be used by "him" ("lui"), "Presidente" Silvio Berlusconi in his septuagenarian bid for an extended sexual and political life. "Us," it's implied, are the crowd and the workers present at the salvaging of a Christ statue from the ruins of the earthquake in L'Aquila at the very end of the film, an image that especially stuns in the light of the Notre Dame fire. Paolo Sorrentino is too magisterially fluid a filmmaker to suggest anything as pat as a moral comeuppance; it's just that the hedonism which takes up two thirds of the film must have an end. Death spares no-one, the final lapping of the waves against the credits tells us.

Those critical of Sorrentino for apparently taking too soft-focused a view of the first big Horror Clown on the political scene – and admittedly Berlusconi has some things in his favour, where Trump has none – should perhaps bear in mind two of the director's other films, both starring the chameleonic Toni Servillo: Il Divo (The God), a dizzying fantasia on Andreotti, perhaps the biggest spider ever at the heart of an Italian political web; and La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty), a much more affectionate portrait of an ageing playboy.  Toni Servillo's Berlusconi entertainsYou might well think that Berlusconi is getting off way too lightly in the early stages of the film. Due to the usual sensational cinematography, the scenes on Sardinia, where a grifter and pimp (Sergio Mora) has decided to hold a big party full of TV bimbos and nymphets opposite Berlusconi's villa as bait, have a dream-like quality even when the paraphernalia – the daft miniature volcano Berlusconi is always hoping to explode in his garden, the plastic castle, the symbolic sheep, one of whom launches the film in style – is absurd. You think how Fellini would have loved to tackle all this had he been alive, but Sorrentino's touch is more slyly sensual even in its use of Italian pop and traditional songs (we're not allowed to forget that Berlusconi in his youth was a crooner on a cruise ship – the entertainer pictured above).

We know what these people are about, how easily they overcome any moral scruples. But the voices of reason and recrimination are selectively few. There's the first of the six senators whom Berlusconi needs to corrupt to get his seat back; then the 20-year old girl who won't join the 300 and says no to this old man and his attempted seduction. "Your breath smell like my grandfather," she tells him, "neither sweet nor bad" (our Silvio comes to realise it's probably because they both use the same denture cleaner). And finally the cultured wife who tells it how it is after 24 years of marriage – though she stands accused by her Silvio, too. You need the knowledge of a native Italian to explain the decisive moment where Berlusconi diverts a flight to the United Nations in New York (pictured below) to Naples to celebrate the 18th birthday of another object of desire – the step too far for Veronica Berlusconi (played with subtle world-weariness by Elena Sofia Ricci). I’m sure there are other references which will have passed many of us by, but you don’t need the energetic concentration that was required for Il Divo. Toni Servillo in LoroAs usual, Sorrentino chooses a wide range of music to telling effect, choreographing chorus-girl numbers to several tacky pop songs, trying to get a more interior effect with the intrusion of classical music, but finally settling for minimalism from the point at which the disaster of L'Aquila strikes. There’s a bit of grim comedy here, too: Servillo’s Berlusconi starts to use the same spiel about luxury rehousing to an old lady who’s lost her dentures in the fire that he engaged over the phone to a dissatisfied housewife earlier in the film. The sales pitch has never left him; but we know how the L’Aquila project turned out.

Structure-wise, it feels a bit unwieldy: too long is spent, perhaps, on Sardinia. How would it seem in the original two-parter? It’s sometimes said that cuts make a work of art feel longer. For that we will have to wait for the DVD release hopefully giving us both the full-length and "theatrical" versions. I’d be happy to sit through the first and watch the second again.

The voices of reason and recrimination are selectively few

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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