Screened as part of NZIFF 2019
Queasy and compelling in equal measure, Paolo Sorrentino’s sprawling portrait of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – played with oily charisma by the director’s regular leading man, Toni Servillo (The Great Beauty) – is presented in its feature-length international version.
It’s 2006. Berlusconi’s third government has fallen, and his marriage is also about to collapse. Before meeting the man himself, we’re introduced to Sergio (a magnetic and suave Riccardo Scamarcio) and his unscrupulous partner Tamara. From southern Italy, the pair want to become part of Berlusconi’s closest circle in Rome, and they are ready to do whatever it takes. Enter Kira, a high-class hooker who encourages Sergio to rent a villa in Sardinia overlooking the former PM’s and fill it with scantily clad models fuelled by mountains of drugs and alcohol. It doesn’t take long before Berlusconi notices.
Until now his name has barely been spoken, and even his face has not yet been revealed. When he does at last appear, Berlusconi is in full makeup, dressed as an odalisque attempting to impress his bored wife. Always in performance mode, he acts the crooner, an emperor bestowing gifts on prostitutes and politicians alike, and, in one of the film’s best scenes, a salesman trying to close the deal on a non-existent apartment with a housewife fooled by his magic.
The chameleonic Servillo is perfect as the orange, plastic surgery-addicted Berlusconi, his voice and mannerisms extraordinarily matching those of the Italian politician. It’s impossible to take your eyes off that smiling, creepy face. — Sibilla Paparatti
“The camera glides through bacchanals, making each viewer a voyeur of sorts. The colours are lush; the production design is breathtaking. Italy has rarely looked so stunning and soulless. Loro satirizes affluence by bathing in it. It may be impossible to leave a Sorrentino jaunt not feeling a little bit mischievous.” — Sam Fragoso, The Wrap