Thursday, October 17, 2019

Prime minister as party animal and top dog

Those familiar with the work of director Paolo Sorrentino (Great Beauty, Youth and HBO's The Young Pope) know that the director creates images of startling beauty and resonant suggestion. Sorrentino brings his full visual powers to Loro, a look at the life of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, played here by Sorrentino regular Toni Servillo. Sorrentino begins the movie by focusing on a character named Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), a low-level hustler who aspires to become a recognized Berlusconi sycophant. To achieve his goal, Sergio rents a villa in Sardinia, the island where Berlusconi has gone to regroup. Sergio stocks his villa with beautiful young women and prays that his sybaritic neighbor will take notice. Scenes at the villa, heavy on nudity and sensual choreography, are perhaps intended to show the pornography of power with an ample helping of La Dolce Vita-style emptiness. Just as Berlusconi eventually will do, Sorrentino pushes Sergio aside to bring the film's full focus onto Berlusconi, a man of amorality, charm, and flashes of ruthlessness. Elene Sofia Ricci portrays Berlusconi's wife, a woman accustomed to overlooking her husband's massive philandering -- but who may have reached the end of a very tolerant rope. Loro -- Italian for "them" -- immerses in the personality and aura of a man who seems to regard the world as his personal pleasure palace. References to the suffering of ordinary folks crop up at the movie's end but aren't enough to diminish the feeling of a film enamored with a rogue who built a TV empire and who specialized in humiliating his foes. Besides, we get the point long before the movie's two hours and 30-minutes wind to a halt. Still, Servillo delivers another masterful performance and Sorrentino paves the movie with the kind of images that seduce, reveal and create their own sense of mystery. How much of the story is true? Sorrentino hedges a bit with an opening title card, but his movie may have more to do with the atmospherics of rampant corruption than with a play-by-play look at Berlusconi's career.

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