Gorbaciof Review

Naples, the present day. Marino Pacileo (Toni Servillo) is nicknamed “Gorbaciof” due to the birthmark on his forehead, rather like that of the former Soviet President. He works as an accountant at the local Poggioreale Prison, but has a passion for gambling. He tries to help out the father of his girlfriend Lila (Mi Yang) with a gambling debt, but this leads him down a dangerous road...

The English subtitles render the title and the character's nickname as “Gorbychov”. (Gorbaciof, Gorbychov, Gorbachev, Горбачёв...let's call the whole thing off.) Gorbaciof was made in 2010 and released here in the wake of Servillo's higher-profile roles in Gomorrah and the films of Paolo Sorrentino. It trades in noir territory, with its protagonist being undone by love and a fatal flaw, but it's all rather underpowered. Given that the storyline doesn't really get going until about twenty-five minutes in, by which time, this shortish film has less than an hour to go, makes it all seem somewhat thin. Director Stefano Incerti has a couple of striking shots – lights playing on Gorbaciof's face in the street, a scene between him and Lila framed through a fishtank – but for the most part it's visually rather bland and flatly photographed (digital-captured). The film goes as far as it does via Servillo's undeniable charisma, but I also wasn't convinced that he and Lila were as much in love as we are asked to accept. A music-scored no-dialogue montage doesn't really cut it to convey that. It also doesn't help that while Servillo looks more senior than he actually is (he was born in 1959), Gorbaciof is still quite clearly old enough to be Lila's father. Gorbaciof is competent enough but lacks any kind of vital spark.


In what is clearly a growing distribution model, Gorbaciof did not receive a UK cinema release, but instead premiered on Curzon Home Cinema at the same time as Artificial Eye's big-screen release of Sorrentino's The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza), and two months later comes out on DVD. The disc is single-layered and encoded for Region 2 only.

The DVD transfer is anamorphically-enhanced in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Gorbaciof was shot on the Red One (which captures at 4K resolution), and while I think the film is visually rather flat, that's not the fault of the transfer: I've no doubt the muted colour scheme is as per original. It's sharp and the colours and shadow detail seem accurate.

There is only a Dolby Surround (2.0) soundtrack on this DVD. The surrounds are mostly used for ambience, the music score and some noticeable traffic noise during the opening shots of Gorbaciof walking through the streets/. This Italian-language film has fixed electronic English subtitles. During a scene where Lila speaks in Mandarin, we get those English subtitles over fixed Italian ones.

The only extra is the trailer, in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 and running 1:46. This also has fixed English subtitles, but oddly we get part of Lila's Mandarin dialogue but without the Italian subtitles, unlike the scene in the feature itself.

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