The opening film of the 2018 Lavazza Italian Film Festival is a quirky, fictional biopic of controversial billionaire, media mogul and four-time Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi.
There’s a lot of abstract camera work and settings reminiscent of 60s and 70s psychedelic imagery without the fashion and hairdos to go with it. Much is related to the real-life Berlusconi, but appears without explanation, such as the inexplicable appearance of lambs on his property, most notably in the comical opening scene. According to Wikipedia, Berlusconi appeared in a video promoting a vegetarian Easter campaign in 2017, cuddling lambs he had adopted to save from slaughter.
Part comedy, part drama, Loro dives deep into the vivid imagination of writer/director Paolo Sorrentino as he imagines the wild parties, sex, drugs and political connivances of Berlusconi’s life as he clambers to revive his political career. Alongside this, we follow Sergio Morra using his bevvy of whores to attract Berlusconi’s attention so he can gain favour with the man. There’s a lot of gratuitous female nudity, primarily stemming from Morra’s parties but, on the flip side, there are also powerful moments of reflection: we hold our breath as Berlusconi phones someone at random to test his bygone powers of persuasion by convincing the woman on the other end to invest in a property that hasn’t even been built yet; and we feel the same stab of truth when a young woman tells him his breath smells the same as her grandfather’s.
Toni Servillo is magnificent as Berlusconi and is ably supported by a wonderful cast that includes Elena Sofia Ricci as his wife Veronica Lario and Riccardo Scamarcio as the pimp Morra.
The opulent settings are a visual feast, particularly with so much of the unexpected appearing throughout the film – Berlusconi’s volcano, a merry-go-ground on the grounds of his estate, those lambs… The film is decadent, wicked, sexual and dazzling in its depiction of opulence and the amoral lifestyle such wealth can bring. Sorrentino’s story doesn’t distinguish fact from fiction but shows a great amount of wit in both the script and the visuals.
At the 2018 Nastri d’Argento Awards, Loro was awarded gongs for Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and the Guglielmo Biraghi Award. Originally screened overseas in two parts, the Festival is presenting Loro in one sitting for Adelaide audiences, but the runtime is a comfortable two and a half hours.
The oddball nature of the film may not appeal to those who prefer a more traditional approach to storytelling, but Loro is sure to appeal to a vast majority of audiences.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Loro is screening exclusively at the Palace Nova cinemas for the 2018 Lavazza Italian Film Festival. Catch it at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas on 21, 25, 27, 29 September and 2, 11, 13 October, or at the Palace Nova Prospect Cinemas on 23 September and 1, 3, 6, 14 October 2018.
All films in the Lavazza Italian Film Festival screen with English subtitles.