Il Divo: Sorrentino’s Political Satire, Highlight of Cannes Film Fest

Cannes Film Fest 2008 (In Competition)–A political film that’s at once playful, witty, and poignant, “Il Divo,” from the gifted Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, is a highlight of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, deservedly winning a top award.

One of the problems that this superb picture might face when playing globally is the audience’s lack of basic knowledge of the Italian political process.

Chronicling the career and personality of seven-time Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, the movie boasts a captivating performance by Toni Servillo, the Napolitan actor who has appeared in other pictures by Sorrentino, such as “One Man Up” and “The Consequences of Love.”

Andreotti, who first served the government in 1947, is now a Senator. His Christian Democrat Party dominated Italian politics as a one-party system for four decades–until the “Tangentopoli,” or Bribesville, scandals shattered its rules.  The politico has always been in the news, for one reason or another. In the early 1990s, he was implicated in some illegal activities, including Mafia connections, but he managed to be acquitted.

Thus, on one level, “Il Divo,” is a bold narrative that spans over 40 years of Andreotti’s lifeand Italian politics. But it’s far from a dry account; the film is peppered with smart observations and droll sense of humor that do not undermine the more serious issues.  The tone is set from the very first image, in which the politico (nicknamed by some “Beelzebub”) is seen with acupuncture needles, trying to get rid of a bad headache.

This is followed by a montage sequence of murders with the victims being identified with captions. They including politicos like Aldo Moro, Roberto Calvi, Giovanni Falcone, bankers and financiers, judges and other civil servants.

The center of the tale depicts Andreotti’s seventh government and his fall, as a result of accusation of links to the Mafia (a topic also explored in “Gomorra,” another terrific Italian film at Cannes this year). After a montage of politicians who killed themselves during and after the “Tangentopoli” scandal, Andreotti is seen interviewed by an inquisitive journalist.

The domestic scene is not neglected either, in a touching scene in which Andreotti communicates with his wife Livia (Anna Bonaiuto). Tough and candid, the wife feels that she doesn’t really know who her husband is.  The movie builds toward Andreotti’s confession, which begins in a quiet mode, with controlled emotions before escalating into a more volatile outburst.

Collaborating again with cinematographer Luca Bigazzi and editor Cristiano Travaglioli, Sorrentino has made a technically polished film whose eccentric style fits perfectly the subject matter.  The music and soundtrack are just as impressive as the visuals, combining classic music (Sibelius compositions) and modern pop tunes, such as Trio’s 1982 hit “Da Da Da.”

Credits

An Indigo Film, Lucky Red, Parco Film (Italy)/Babe Films, Studio Canal, Arte France Cinema (France) production, in collaboration with Sky. (International sales: Beta Cinema, Oberhaching, Germany.)  Produced by Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Andrea Occhipinti, Maurizio Coppolecchia.  Co-producer, Fabio Conversi. Directed, written by Paolo Sorrentino.  Camera (color), Luca Bigazzi; editor, Cristiano Travaglioli; music, Teho Teardo; production designer, Lino Fiorito; costume designer, Daniela Ciancio; make-up, effects, Vittorio Sodano; sound (Dolby Digital), Emanuele Cecere, Silvia Moraes, Angelo Raguseo; associate producers, Stefano Bonfanti, Gianluigi Gardani; assistant director, Davide Bertoni; casting, Annamaria Sambucco.

Running time: 117 MIN.

Cast

Giulio Andreotti – Toni Servillo Livia Andreotti – Anna Bonaiuto Eugenio Scalfari – Giulio Bosetti Franco Evangelisti – Flavio Bucci Paolo Cirino Pomicino – Carlo Buccirosso Salvo Lima – Giorgio Colangeli