Il Divo

"Very Good"

Il Divo Review


There were two films that locked up most of the nominations at the 2009 Italian Academy's David Di Donatello awards, and neither of them says anything good about the state of the Italian Republic. One of the films, Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah, was released in the United States near the end of 2008, and the other, Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo, follows it a few months later. Sorrentino's film is another nation-indicting portrait of unimaginable corruption and moral rot that ropes in every social entity, ranging from the hallowed halls of the Vatican and Parliament to the grimiest Mafia den. But Il Divo is as showy as Gomorrah was spare, sometimes taking your breath away with its gutsy leaps of brilliance and sometimes acting like a bratty child desperate for attention.

Il Divo is a fast-moving and smart-ass dramatized portrait of Giulio Andreotti, the nearly invisible little imp who might have been the most powerful man in Italy for the past half-century or so. After showing a series of seemingly random and brutal assassinations, Sorrentino (who also wrote the stitched-together screenplay) starts the real action in 1991, when the 72-year-old Andreotti is starting his seventh term as Prime Minister. The film introduces the rogues' gallery of fixers who comprise Andreotti's faction in pure Guy Ritchie fashion, with chop-socky angles, thudding music, and screen titles assigning them all gaudy nicknames like "The Shark" and "Lemon" (except for Cardinal Angelini, who gets the relatively sober sobriquet "His Holiness"). They play their roles to the hilt, particularly Carlo Buccirosso, whose nervy take on Paolo Cirino Pomicino (one of Andreotti's ministers) comes off like Dana Carvey on pep pills. It would all seem like third-hand pulpified hackdom if these weren't real people whose alleged behavior chills the blood.

Once the stage is set, Sorrentino begins to load up on incident, and it doesn't take long before the screen is overflowing. An ubiquitous but quiet titan of the ruling Christian Democrat party, Andreotti evinced a Forrest Gump-ish ability to keep positions of political power for decades in a country where governments last about as long as gelato on a hot day. At the same time, he's been accused of more crimes and conspiracies than the Freemasons; and in fact is reputed to be a member of the secretive Masonic Lodge P2 ("Propaganda Due"), which supposedly worked to consolidate government and church power by the darkest, most fascistic means.

This so-called "strategy of tension" was one in which a dark conclave of Masons, politicians, paramilitaries, and Mafiosi carried out numerous assassinations and massacres in order to keep the Italian Communist Party from gaining a toehold in the government. The blizzard of conspiratorial detail that Il Divo unloads on the viewer makes a Dan Brown book seem rose-colored and simple by comparison. By the time the film dives into the tangled guts of the 1990s' corruption and Mafia scandals, even devoted students of modern Italian scandals will be left with their heads spinning. While Sorrentino certainly couldn't have given a full accounting of Andreotti's legacy (that would be a miniseries, at least), his failure to do much more to contextualize his story is the film's weakest point. Too often, this occasional opera director seems more willing to goose the proceedings with zippy visuals and ironic music cues (from Sibelius and Vivaldi to Trio's monomanical "Da Da Da"), leaving cut-and-dried questions of guilt and innocence for others to answer.

The still, almost unmoving center of Sorrentino's swirling storm is occupied by Toni Servillo, who plays Andreotti like a stone-faced clown. (Fittingly, Servillo also had a key role in the similarly caustic Gomorrah, as a Camorra operative whose blase villany was one of the film's most damning portraits.) Possessed of sad, Buster Keaton eyes and a tight-shouldered mincing walk, Servillo's Andreotti sits at the epicenter of this deafening maelstrom of criminal corruption and political intrigue like a sarcastic Chauncey Gardner. Andreotti seems comical at first, but Servillo's impressively stoic performance seems increasingly villainous as the film goes on, the hints of cruelty and crushing ambition peeking out around the mask. He is the true embodiment of the quote from Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci that Sorrentino uses at the start of the film: "True power does not need arrogance, a long beard and a barking voice. True power strangles you with silk ribbons, charm, and intelligence."

Aka Il divo: La straordinaria vita di Giulio Andreotti.

Are we not men?



Il Divo

Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 28th May 2008

Box Office Worldwide: $11.3M

Budget: $7.3M

Distributed by: Music Box Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 44 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Producer: Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano, Andrea Occhipinti

Starring: Toni Servillo as Giulio Andreotti, Anna Bonaiuto as Livia Danese, Giulio Bosetti as Eugenio Scalfari, as Franco Evangelisti, Carlo Buccirosso as Paolo Cirino Pomicino, Giorgio Colangeli as Salvo Lima, Alberto Cracco as Don Mario, Piera Degli Esposti as Signora Enea, Lorenzo Gioielli as Mino Pecorelli, Paolo Graziosi as Aldo Moro, Gianfelice Imparato as Vincenzo Scotti, Massimo Popolizio as Vittorio Sbardella, Aldo Ralli as Giuseppe Ciarrapico, as Magistrato Scarpinato, Orazio Alba as Gaspare Mutolo, Fernando Altieri as Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Pietro Biondi as Francesco Cossiga

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