Wow, what a film....
Il Divo, from writer and director Paolo Sorrentino, is one of those rare movies that restores and reinforces one's faith in cinema. You need one or two of these a year to make wading through all the mediocre stuff seem worthwhile. The film sketches the later part of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti's life, from around the early '90s to date (he's still alive, now 90). His career includes being Prime Minister of Italy several times and the film's title is drawn, with good reason as it turns out, from a name given to Julius Caesar. Andreotti's party, the Christian Democrats, after ruling for most of Italy's post-war period, floundered in the mid-nineties - the result of a series of damning corruption and Mafia connection charges - and has subsequently disappeared from the political scene. The film is anchored by an outrageous tour-de-force performance in the title role by Toni Servillo. It starts with a bang - quite literally - at point zero, and continues to crank up a weird tension for a solid two hours. A barrage of information is thrown at the audience in rapid-fire succession that worried me out of the gates. Was I supposed to take all this info in? It turns out not to matter – the intent of the details is simply to establish how expansive Andreotti's influence and power was.
Interestingly, Il Divo is everything that Oliver Stone's W. wasn't – stylized, surreal, informative, creepy, funny and most importantly, not afraid to take a position on the film's subject. It also needs to be said just how important Toni Servillo is to the film. His portrayal is simply astonishing and amongst the most nuanced and enigmatic performance I've had the pleasure of seeing. The score is excellent, the locations breathtaking, and the whole thing is brimming with an intensity and reckless excess that makes it hard to tear your eyes from the screen. It's big, complex and brilliant.
I don't know when it releases on Region 1 DVD (the one I watched is a UK PAL import), but this will be a sure-fired winner when it does. With Gomorrah and now this film, here's hoping that we're witnessing a bit of a renaissance in Italian filmmaking. They're two of the best films I've seen this year.