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DVD Review: ‘Il Divo’ Explores the Bloody Trenches of Italian Politics

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CHICAGO – Since the totality of what I know about Italian politics could fit inside a fortune cookie, I’d normally be inclined to demand that films on the subject keep it simple by not utilizing too many characters and not bothering with a complicated plot that spans roughly fifteen years. But the slick “Il Divo” didn’t have me pleading with writer director Paolo Sorrentino to slow down so that I could catch up with its history.

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 3.0/5.0

Instead, I remained gripped by the movie, embarrassed at how my lack of expertise prevented me from appreciating it to the fullest extent possible. Sorrentino’s picture is brutally gritty yet mature in the manner of a Coppola or Scorsese production, and while I spent a lot of time unsure of who was who and what was actually happening to them, I never lost interest in trying to piece it all together.

The film boldly depicts the fierce political life of Giulio Andreotti, a center-right Italian senator who served in many posts during his 50-plus years in government, including several stints as the country’s prime minister. We Americans may believe we’ve had our share of survivors (the Clintons, the Kennedys), people who have managed to retain their hold on power long after a juicy scandal. Well, we’ve never had a national figure like this guy, and if the events dramatized in the film are close to the truth, here’s hoping we never do.

Il Divo will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on October 27th, 2009.
Il Divo will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on October 27th, 2009.
Photo credit: MPI Home Video

For years, rumors swirled around Andreotti and his connections to murders of rival lawmakers, unsympathetic journalists and others who stood between him and his love of a neatly ordered society. Though he may not have authorized anyone’s death, he definitely knew some sinful dudes and certainly didn’t do everything in his power to protect his foes from physical harm.

The action in “Il Divo” takes place in the early ‘90s, when those accusations became too big for courts to ignore and when the floor beneath him and his cronies began to crumble.

All the stress that comes with being a ruthless political warrior had left Andreotti with a seemingly permanent migraine, but Toni Servillo plays him here as someone for whom displays of emotion were treated like a weakness. In spite of a monstrous reputation, Andreotti barely even raises his voice during the film’s first 75 minutes. In place of devious smiles and gruesome snarls, he communicates his approval or displeasure through a series of subtle hand gestures near his lap.

With its parliamentary votes and back-room deals among party factions, there’s enough inside baseball in the story to make an uninformed audience’s head spin. Nearly everyone in the film is obsessed with politics without uttering a word about policy, and there are few hints at what an Andreotti government meant for the average citizen or what sorts of accomplishments or opportunities allowed this uncharismatic figure to become such an unbeatable beast. Every now and then, I’d cross my fingers and hope that Robert DeNiro would appear as a young Andreotti to detail the man’s rise to power. At the very least, a straightforward documentary on the rest of Andreotti’s early life would’ve been a valuable addition to the American DVD.

However, for all the minutiae that’s lost in translation, the movie oozes dark energy. In the absence of verbal outbursts, we get a soundtrack of threatening drum solos, gunshots and rock and roll. And although the action often moves too quickly to catch the name of every Andreotti ally, there’s always a sense that these people are doing shady deals and half-expecting to be sleeping with the fishes at any moment.

If you’re looking for an excuse to brush up on the history of foreign governments, here’s your chance.

‘Il Divo’ is released by MPI Home Video and it stars Toni Servillo Anna and Bonaiuto Guilio Bosetti. It was written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. It will be released on October 27th, 2009. It is not rated.

Staff Writer

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