LORO

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Stars: Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Giovanni Esposito, Dario Contarelli.

Toni Servillo in Loro 1 (2018)This messy, vulgar, bloated and indulgent biopic of Silvio Berlusconi (played here by Toni Servillo), the lecherous tycoon and media mogul who served four terms as Italy’s divisive, colourful and controversial Prime Minister mired in scandal, is the latest film from idiosyncratic filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty, etc). Sorrentino’s films always serve up a brash and flashy mix of the bawdy and the beautiful, and Loro is no exception as the screen is filled with sex and drugs and scantily clad women, especially in the first half. Loro perfectly suits his flashy visual style.

Co-written by his regular collaborator Umberto Contarello, Loro scratches away at the hedonistic lifestyle and genial that Berlusconi showed to the world and exposes a darker truth of corruption, excess and hubris, his dodgy financial dealings. He is little more than an unethical, sleazy salesman and hustler who, as one character notes, put his own self interest above that of his country. He tried to project a virile image to the world. While in power he refused to divest himself of his business interests, he passed many laws that made his friends richer and benefitted his own interests. He was embroiled in criminal trials after extensive wiretaps revealed his corruption and abuse of power. To get back into power all he has to do is convince (bribe, suborn) six senators to abandon their own principles and support his party. Eventually his long suffering wife Veronica (Elena Sofia Ricci) grows tired of this lifestyle and asks for a divorce. Some people in the audience will also draw an unflattering comparison between Berlusconi’s narcissistic personality and that of current US President Donald Trump.

A major subplot follows young ambitious Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio, from John Wick 2, etc), an opportunistic hustler and pimp who rents a mansion next to Berlusconi’s Sardinian mansion and throws a series of lavish poolside parties with scantily clad women gyrating and dancing and snorting cocaine, in the hope of attracting his attention and gaining favour and, hopefully, a position in politics. Both the lead characters here are unscrupulous and unapologetic in their pursuit of success and fortune.

A disclaimer at the start of the film insists that this is a work of speculative fiction. Most of the action is confined to Berlusconi’s mansion, and the party sequences are boring and repetitive and go on far too long. Sorrentino is a very visual director and he is well served here by the dazzling cinematography of his regular collaborator Luca Bigazzi, whose insightful aesthetic choices highlight this hedonistic lifestyle. There is some great production design from regular production designer Stefania Cella who brings Berlusconi’s lavish mansion to life.

Sorrentino is also well served by a committed performance from his regular star Servillo, in his fifth collaboration with the director. Dario Contarelli has a stoic and slightly unnerving presence as Berlusconi’s quiet ally Paulo who is always lurking in the background observing events and discreetly ushering people away from the great man.

The film concludes with some footage of the aftermath of the devastating 2009 earthquake in the village of L’Aquila, which serves up a subtle message about the damage that Berlusconi wreaked during his tenure.

On its initial release in Italy early in 2018 the film ran for a mammoth 200 hundred minutes, and was released in two parts. We are getting a truncated and re-edited version that runs for 151 minutes, which is still far too long. But for all of that Loro is a pretty shallow and unappealing mess. Loro has some of the same gaudiness and excess that drove The Wolf Of Wall Street, but it lacks the political insight of the recent Vice, Adam McKay’s scathing biopic of Dick Cheney, George W Bush’s Vice President.

I found this shapeless narrative and impressionistic take a rather vacuous and empty experience. I also gained little insight into the character. (The title translates as either “Them” or “Gold”.)

★☆

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