Thursday, September 26, 2019

Movie with Abe: Loro

Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Released September 27, 2019

As Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy began to look increasingly successful, there was one world politician whose own career presented a framework for how he could actually make it into the top office in the country. Silvio Berlusconi, who served as Italy’s prime minister for nine years, is a businessman with strong holdings in the Italian television industry with a penchant for remarks and indiscretions that he doesn’t even do much to hide. Despite his reputation, which includes being chastised by the Queen of England for his behavior at a photo shoot, Berlusconi enjoys a certain popularity that endears him to a large enough population in his country for him to have been able to govern even in the face of almost constant scandals.

Berlusconi is at first just an unattainable idea in this film, referred to as “him” or “him him,” for clarification purposes, by the eager and ambitious Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), who wants nothing more than an audience with the powerful leader so that he can bolster his own political future. Morra organizes lavish parties with all the women he can find, and eventually positions his outlandish festivities in direct sight of Berlusconi (Toni Servillo), who can’t resist the allure of beautiful women surrounding him and praising him. As he battles the media’s constant pursuit of negative stories about his misdeeds, Berlusconi also navigates his own relationship with his wife, Veronica (Elena Sofia Ricci), who must weigh the value of being with a man who will never treat her the way she wants despite given her a life more luxurious than she could ever have imagined.

This film, which clocks in at over two and a half hours long, was originally released in Italy in two parts. This lengthy narrative does include a considerable amount of material and doesn’t move particularly quickly, but, fortunately, some of its most interesting and involving content is saved for its final act. There is indeed excess to be found at nearly every turn, represented by Morra’s striving for his best and Berlusconi’s daily operations, filled either by countless adoring fans or by equally alluring scenery far too vast for just one person, no matter how high-ranking. Much of this film’s plot is invented based on stories and suppositions, and whatever liberties it takes feel valid since it manages to capture the simultaneous, contradictory glamor and loneliness that are fated to befall anyone for whom nothing is ever enough.

This film comes from director Paolo Sorrentino, who won an Oscar in 2013 for “The Great Beauty,” also starring Servillo, and created the TV series “The Young Pope,” both of which traffic in artful portrayals of how those in power choose to exercise it and indulge in everything available to them. The cinematography and art direction are heavily featured, and the intimate moments of conversation, real or fictitious, are stark and gripping, impressively contrasting with the vain, fleeting nature of all the mindless partying. Servillo delivers a striking performance, one far more energetic than his turn in “The Great Beauty” and more appropriately formidable than his dual role in “Viva la Liberta,” and he’s well-matched by Scamarcio, Ricci, and a handful of others in the ensemble who make their moments on screen matter. This film requires an investment of time and concentration, but its rewards are plentiful, offering a searing portrait of a man determined to hold onto what he has because he believes he’s earned his place.


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