Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writers: Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello
Music: Lele Marchitelli
Cinematography: Luca Bigazzi
Editor: Cristiano Travaglioli
Elena Sofia Ricci
Roberto De Francesco
This international cut of Paolo Sorrentino’s sumptuous-looking biopic of Italian media tycoon-turned-former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (1936- ) runs 145 minutes, collated and edited from LORO I and II which were subsequently released in Italy and in toto clock in at 204 minutes, nearly one-hour length of footage is truncated (may it all be bikini-clad, pneumatic girls roistering in abandonment), so for cinematic purist, please refrain from this version.
Otherwise, let’s dive into this sybaritic adventure which kick-starts with a wacky caveat: a kawaii lamb plumb drops dead seconds after it stumbles into the cavernous living room of Berlusconi’s summer residence in Sardinia, the message seems clear – Agnus Dei aka. innocence cannot survive in that toxic environs.
It takes a good 40 minutes before Mr. Berlusconi’s first official appearance, during which, Sergio Morra (Scamarcio), who runs an escort business in Taranto with his partner Tamara (Axen), aims to branch out by getting the former PM’s attention – who is scheming to win the upcoming 2008 election – through the brokering of Kira (Smutniak), Silvio’s current mistress, among others. Sergio arranges a rip-roaring party mainly consisted of barely-clad nubile girls, in a rented villa right in front of Berlusconi’s. Will he rise to the bait? There is no question about that.
First time Mr. Berlusconi (Servillo) entering the scene, he is dressed like an Arabian woman, veiled and everything, holding a posy and trying to delight his estranged wife Veronica Lario (Ricci), but her dismissal hits like an icy knife, “Don’t be a clown, Silvio.” an inner voice exclaims. Indeed, Sorrentino’s tack is to peel off this plutocrat’s layered guises to reveal what he is made of, a salesman and a clown, two bullet points are shored up by a nocturnal cold call to prove he still gets his pitchman mojo and the irreparable dissolution of his 20-year-old marriage with Veronica, who despises him for his incapacity in statecraft and unrestrained debauchery. And there is more spiteful sideswipe, what is at the rainbow’s end for an elderly man who literally has everything in his life? His long lost youth, of course, Sorrentino’s senescent barbs levering at a septuagenarian through the mouth of a 20-year-old nubile girl Stella (Pagani), whom Silvio intends to bed in the course of another lavish quarry-hunting party organized by Sergio, is piercingly cruel, and even afterwards, he dredges up the spat and tries to erase its verity by a wisecrack, but a passing thought is: if Stella’s grandfather indeed shares the same denture cleaner as his, she might not need to be at that pathetic party in the first place.
Contrasting the unconscionable razzle-dazzle (which Sorrentino has honed to the hilt with a dash of absurdity and saturated bling-bling pizzazz) with a muted emptiness – which seeps in in the wake of the calamitous 2009 L’Aquila earthquake occurring after Berlusconi’s re-election, the way Sorrentino linking these two events together deviously implies that the calamity could be the Almighty’s irate answer towards his ascendency, LORO (means “them” in English) finally junks it materialistic ballast/frippery as well as the subplot of Sergio’s grasping pursuance, in lieu, Berlusconi’s self-reflexion tangentially alludes to an inconvenient truth: a leader’s characteristics reflect those of the multitude who chooses him, and now, they want Jesus back.
Toni Servillo is, to be expected, superbly eloquent and all-around (also playing Ennio Doris, a billionaire businessman and one of Berlusconi’s closest associates) in embodying a well-known real-life character whose tics and elocution the mass (Italian audience in particular) is very au fait with, subtly buries his diligent imitation under a self-parodying conviviality (top-notch make-up achievement too), shouldn’t one be alert if his Berlusconi comes off as rather sympathetic? Among a vast supporting characters, Scamarcio and Smutniak both turn heads, but it is Elena Sofia Ricci who plays off Servillo’s motor-mouthed accusation and interrogation with a calm but smoldering despair that preciously retains her vestigial dignity.
LORO is largely what one can expect from Sorrentino’s sardonic disposition and ostentatious modus operandi, even if your mileage may vary towards his controversial subject, at the very least, we should hand it to Sorrentino for laying an undue outpouring of his outrageous brainwaves with an enormous trowel.