The politician Silvio Berlusconi was the Prime Minister of Italy for eleven years from 2001 to 2011, as a member of the center right party. His administration was riddled with scandal, from ties to the mafia and tax evasion to questionable financial dealings and numerous extramarital affairs. The man quickly became infamous for his lurid and decadent parties while most struggled in economic inequality.
Berlusconi clearly wanted to be an emperor.
Paulo Sorrentino (“The Great Beauty”) offers a portrait of this figure in his inimitable style, and it is grand, flowing and surrealistic, even if it is not completely riveting for its entire 158 minutes.
In the film, ladies’ man Sergio (Ricardo Scamarcio) has ambitions to meet Berlusconi and rise to the top. He surrounds himself with beautiful women and gets invited to parties waiting to make his move.
Foremost in the film is its visual style which is magnificent, as fans of this director have come to expect. Sumptuous parties become writhing fleshpots. Women and men transform into sexual octopi driven for whirring purposes. Lobsters change into orgasmic accessories made for those exclusively masochistic. Bare skin alchemizes into gold and back again.
Salvador Dali is a definite presence.
Sergio is plunged into a prurient Disneyworld of long flexing legs along sloping greens. Nubile women toss their hair back and forth and part bright neon lips as men salivate and drool. Long stretches of the film resemble salacious music videos as amble breasts wobble, interspersed with flowing hair, translucent lipstick and tumbling red velvet. A standout scene is that of a huge rat on the steps of Rome, overseeing all of the wanton sexuality and the unceasing worship of luxury and supple flesh. The rat is king.
Berlusconi (Toni Servillo) is part leprechaun, part salesman. A self-pleased smile is rarely off his face. This is even evident during his unseemly moments when he leers and forces himself upon young girls. The politician can sell anything except himself. Silvio’s wife (Elena Sofia Ricci) tires of his scandals and wants a divorce. Berlusconi sees it only as a game of conquest, something to be picked from an orange tree. Toni Servillo gives an excellent reading of this insecure man.
The best moments of “Loro” are actually its fleshy interludes combined with its strange vignettes: a goat wonders into the politician’s compound, watches a game show and freezes to death. In another, the unwinding of red velvet twists and unspools at length, prefiguring the arrogant tie of Donald Trump.
Though “Loro” is not Sorrentino’s strongest work, its fluid movement is eerily entrancing combined with its compelling caution that we (among other nations) have our own boorish shades of Berlusconi and we should react and root them out with a new, far reaching empathetic vote.
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