Sunday, 15 March 2009

Il divine Sorrentino

I always thought director Paulo Sorrentino was an old – or middle-aged – man, mainly because the subjects of his films The Consequences of Love and The Family Friend are older men. His latest, Il Divo, about Italian politician Giulio Andreotti, is no different.

Il Divo opens with a swaggering sequence of assassinations that's up there with the boulder-rolling start to Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast. Anyone who thinks The Baader Meinhof Complex glamourises terrorist killing is in for a shock. The film finishes as one of the most stunning character assassinations you'll see in cinema.

No less stylish is Sorrentino's treatment of his ageing leading man Toni Servillo, who also starred in The Consequences (as well as last year's arthouse hit, Gomorrah). Sorrentino is something of a car fetishist – some of his best sequences feature autos in tunnels – and he films his star as if he were the subject of a car ad, or a new electric shaver in a commercial.

This is quite an accomplishment as Servillo plays Andreotti as Nosferatu, hunched and shrouded (in The Consequences he was more deadpan Bilko); Giacomo Rizzo was truly grotesque as moneylender Geremia de Geremei in The Family Friend. Not that Sorrentino doesn't like his beautiful women: Olivia Magnani in The Consequences; an entire girls volleyball team for the opening of The Family Friend, and Fanny Ardant in Il Divo.

Il Divo has those flashy captions favoured by JJ Abrams, as well as an astounding sound design. Amid a typically cool soundtrack, Sorrentino's use of a couple of Italo pop tracks at crucial moments stands out – as did those cheesy, emotive songs you're more likely to hear in an Italian seaside discotheque, or a particularly patriotic restaurant, in Gomorrah, where there was no other musical soundtrack. And then Sorrentino caps it with Trio's Da Da Da. You don't get that in many political biographies, especially ones that start with a glossary.

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