Saturday, May 09, 2009

Un quartetto di emozioni

While everyone's going nuts over Star Trek (which I will be seeing, so let's just see if I can be bothered to write anything about that), last night I decided to be all weird and different and I went to see Il divo. Thankfully I refer not to Simon Cowell's pop-opera quartet, but instead to Paulo Sorrentino's lauded film about former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti. However, inspired by the pop-opera quartet and my easily divisible reactions to the film, I'm crossing those caterwauling men (I wish I could use their faces in this post, but they just look like smug, self-satisfied bastards in every photo) with the Seven Dwarfs and bringing you my review in the form of four emotional subheadings. Confused? Yes, you're right! That's the first one. (DoyouseewhatIdidthere, etc.)

Confusion. It may as well be admitted immediately: I went into this film knowing nothing more about it than the couplet "Italian politics" (which is hardly a thrilling advertisement, but anyway). I didn't know who Guilio Andreotti was, I had no cognisance of the events that unfolded before me. I've never been a political person and I'm certainly not an Italian political person (hey, if I don't even care about my own country's politics, I can hardly be expected to care about Italy's). So, for much of the film, I was a bit confused as to who all these people were, what they were doing and why they were doing it. It'd all been jazzed up a bit, probably for people exactly like me, but we'll get to that in a second.

Amusement. Forgive me. But as Guilio Andreotti, Toni Servillo walked like a camp Nosferatu and looked like a cross between David Frost and Milton from Office Space. Servillo's performance isn't by any means bad, but, at least initially, Sorrentino seems all too intent on mining the caricature for laughs, positioning Andreotti's immobile face and hunched body against "hilarious" oppositions like a lost cat. I wasn't amused by the attempts to amuse me, but more the ludicrousness of it all, as well as the time I spent trying to figure out exactly who Servillo resembled. Did I get the perfect description? (Vote now!)

Annoyance. I haven't seen Gomorrah yet, but from what I've heard it fits the same mould as Il divo does- visceral, hyper camerawork, a style aping classic Martin Scorsese; basically, jazzing the dull story up by quick editing, shocking sonoral moments and camera placement that shoves half the frame up to your nose and the other half so far away you need to squint. Il divo adds to the sleek post-modern feel by sticking every character's name, rank and nickname on-screen when we meet them, these labels sliding behind objects and twisting around things and generally making themselves hard to read. You want to make politics more exciting, I get it. But to be honest, the only reason I didn't fall asleep was because you threw in a gunshot or someone yelling every so often so I was jolted out of my slumber.

Melancholy. Alright. So the film didn't work for me on an intellectual level, and that's probably my fault. And it didn't work for me on an aesthetic level, and that's definitely their fault. But there were a couple of moments that cut right through all the bullshit and genuinely moved me. Andreotti and his wife are watching television, and she reaches for his hand, which he coolly gives to her. As they sit there holding hands, staring at the TV, she turns to look at him, and here, for once, the camerawork hits the bullseye. The point-of-view shots linger over the side of his face, desperately trying to penetrate his hard outer shell, and you realise that his wife has lost him completely, no matter how hard she tries, and as she tries again to talk, to break through to him, it's a devastating moment. And then there's the secretary, crying on the bus- a singular moment of unfettered melancholy. Il divo doesn't get much right, because there's so much bullshit, both on the level of plot and of film aesthetics, but when it reveals the deep sadness at its core, it's undeniably powerful. C

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