Silvio Berlusconi, ‘Loro’s’ lion in winter
Not unlike last year’s Vice or this year’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Paolo Sorrentino’s vibrant and exhilarating Loro states in an opening disclaimer to be “an artistic interpretation” of historical fact and figure.
In this case, that historical figure would be Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media mogul and political dynamo whose career might kindly be described as “checkered.” The film, which takes place from 2006 to 2009, offers a speculative and highly satirical depiction of Berlusconi and the events surrounding him.
Initially, the narrative seems to focus on Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), a handsome and highly motivated hustler who would like nothing more than to be a part of the then-Prime Minister’s inner circle. To this end, he employs the proper tricks of the trade: Money, drugs and women. No promise is too extravagant, no scheme too underhanded. The ends always justify the means.
It’s 40 minutes before Berlusconi makes his long-awaited entrance – in drag, no less – and the film immediately shifts to his character, played in bravura, award-worthy fashion by Toni Servillo. Behind the affable, ever-grinning countenance beats the heart of a lion, one who has supreme confidence in his power and influence. He boasts of his success and wealth, complains about how he’s portrayed in the media, rails against his political opponents, and rules by whim. This is topicality at its most tantalizing, deftly realized in Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello’s excellent screenplay. There are many times that the story invites favorable comparison to Citizen Kane (1941), which is high but deserved praise indeed.
Mostly set in and around Berlusconi’s ornate island villa, there’s an operatic grandeur to the proceedings, so much so that it’s hardly a surprise when characters suddenly burst into song. Luca Bigazzi’s glorious cinematography is also a major asset, lending a stylish, sometimes surreal, sheen to the never-ending bacchanal.
Yet there’s much more to Loro than style. In addition to Servillo, who does double-duty in a cameo as Berlusconi’s business partner and staunch ally, Ennio Doris, there are the vivid performances of Scamarcio, whose Sergio comes to rue his ambitions, Euridice Axen as Sergio’s partner Tamara, Alice Pagani as Stella, a young girl who fends off Berlusconi’s advances during a wild party, Kasia Smutniak as a “hostess” (nicknamed “The Queen Bee”) who would welcome Berlusconi’s advances, Dario Cantarelli as Berlusconi’s purported Mafioso right-hand man, and particularly Elena Sofia Ricci as Berlusconi’s long-suffering wife Veronica, who ultimately comes to terms with her own complicity in his (mis)behavior.
In an amusingly ironic twist, Sorrentino had some difficulty in raising the financing for Loro, as Medusa Film – with whom he had worked in the past – is a Berlusconi-controlled entity. Evidently, they had no interest in participating in this particular project.
(In Italian with English subtitles)