Loro 1 (2018) | Dir.
Elena Sofia Ricci, Kasia Smutniak, Riccardo Scamarcio, Toni Servillo | Writers:
Paolo Sorrentino (screenplay), Paolo Sorrentino (story), Umberto Contarello (screenplay)
Loro 2 (2018) | Dir. Paolo Sorrentino | Cast: Elena Sofia Ricci, Kasia Smutniak, Riccardo Scamarcio, Toni Servillo | Writers: Paolo Sorrentino (screenplay), Paolo Sorrentino (story), Umberto Contarello (screenplay)
Toni Servillo’s Silvio Berlusconi may be a master manipulator like Silvio Berlusconi, he may love to party like Il Cavaliere, and perhaps he even has an orange glow to match - but Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film, Loro (which translates as ‘them’), definitely is in no way about the former Italian Prime Minister. Rather than roll out the spurious “based on true events” intro, a disclaimer states these are just “imaginary characters” whose presence make this an “original work”. If that’s what keeps Sorrentino and his producers out of court, then so be it.
Berlusconi’s life in and outside the political arena is tailor made for a cinematic retelling and Sorrentino would seem like the logical fit. It seemed like only a matter of time before a film about a man who appreciates life’s excesses was made by a director with an eye to match. Which makes it all the more disappointing that the moment passes by so laboriously - even after trimming the UK release down from two films (Loro 1 and Loro 2) and chopping an hour from their combined runtime of 3-and-a-half hours.
Anyone expecting a savage take down of Berlusconi, or an attempt to get underneath his skin will be sorely disappointed. Loro doesn’t exist to pass judgement on the man or his morals, instead leaving to us to decide. It’s a stance Scorsese has taken on many an occasion (The Wolf of Wall Street comparisons are hard to escape here) but his editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, understands the need for forward momentum and leaving the pretensions at home. It’s a style badly needed to inject some verve into Loro, because slapping a series of house tracks over crisply shot imagery isn’t really enough.
It’s quite a while before Silvio makes his appearance, with small-time sleaze-hound, Sergio Morra, and his horde of prostitutes initially taking centre stage. The film covers the period between 2006 and 2010, which given the shenanigans surrounding Berlusconi at the time, is generally viewed as a national embarrassment. Sergio bribes local politicians using his high-end escorts, but is desperate to get the attention of ‘Him’ in Rome.
Sergio teams up with the fiercely ambitious Tamara (Euridice Axen) and together they hire out a luxurious villa overlooking Berlusconi’s summer residence in Sardinia hoping their drug-fuelled sex parties will catch his eye. When Silvio does finally make his entrance it isn’t long before a cheesy smile is plastered across his face and Italy’s ‘best salesman' is considering wriggling his way back into political power.
Only those who have been living under a rock for the past decade or so will be unaware of Berlusconi’s notorious reputation. The manipulation of laws that saw him build one of Europe’s biggest TV empires and rake in millions through dodgy deals are all referenced. The women, ‘bunga bunga’ parties and the childish antics at political gatherings are trawled through with artistic style by Sorrentino, set to a thumping soundtrack that never once manages to say anything new or thought-provoking about its subject. Much of it is tongue-in-cheek and as such misses the inherent sleaziness of Berlusconi’s antics.
Sorrentino offers a sympathetic shoulder in the latter stages of the film as Silvio’s marriage to Veronica Lano (Elena Sofia Ricci) falls apart. He seems to be suggesting all the lying and cheating has left the former-prime minister adrift from himself, and all that is left is a lonely old man that shouldn’t be despised but pitied. Meanwhile, the ‘Them’ of the title - people like Sergio or ordinary working Italians dealing with the travails of life (in this case an earthquake) - barely seem connected to the narrative Sorrentino is trying to pitch.
Servillo has long been one of Italy’s, if not Europe’s, best performers, and is having a whale of a time disappearing under the orange-tinged prosthetic make-up. He looks as good as everything else in Sorrentino’s frame, but it never comes together as anything more than a 150-minute music video. Whether the two original versions of Loro hold more weight remains to be seen, and if so, something has been badly lost in this director’s cut.
Loro opens in select cinemas April 19th.