After the ambitious yet somehow tedious “Youth”, the Oscar-winning director plunges further down in “Loro”.
The version of “Loro” that has been widely admitted to the cinematic distribution is cut out of two parts and narrowed down from 4 hours to little more than two. In this cinematic cut, Sergio (Riccardo Scammarcio) is a ferociously ambitious entrepreneur, who wishes to meet the legendary “him”. This mysterious person is Italy’s former president, Silvio Berlusconi (Toni Servillo).
Paolo Sorrentino has been quite a mystery to me for a long time now. “The Great Beauty”, which has won an Oscar after a splendorous festival circuit, has been a somehow an on-the-verge-of-sleeping experience, dangerously close to a pretentious gibberish, packed into a visually astonishing form.
Still, I liked it. Toni Servillo was more than fascinating and carried the film with a ferocious energy and character. The film required patience, but rewarded amply.
The same didn’t apply to “Youth”. Drowned in overly complex dialogues and a kind-of plotless form, it’s the first sign that Paolo Sorrentino might suffer from a complex of an illusion of his own grandeur (and the dream to become the Fellini of the 21st century).
“Loro” proves that all of my doubts about the Italian director were right. With a surplus.
The first half an hour of the film is spent on sketching the character of Sergio (Riccardo Scamarcio who does the best he can with the limited material). A man, who dreams big and sacrifices his entire small fortune to throw a gigantic party, right under the nose of the mysterious “him”. This party – if noticed by the right man – can be his ticket to becoming awfully rich and influential. Sorrentino pairs Sergio with a playette named Kira, who claims to know this most influential man (Katarzyna Smutniak in a pale, flavorless role). She plants the seed in Sergio’s mind about a party, because “He” likes young girls in bikinis (creep-alert intensifies).
This entire beginning goes down the drain the minute “He” is introduced. Kira and Sergio are completely useless when looking at “Loro” from the bigger perspective. It might have had sense in the two-parts division, but the atrocious editing introduces such mayhem that both are not only forgettable, but most importantly – unnecessary.
Once Silvio (ergo Silvio) notices them, Sorrentino forgets about their existence, because Toni Servillo’s artificial smile and witty responses catch the entire spotlight for the rest of the film. I admit that Servillo is bedazzling as Berlusconi, throwing himself entirely to become a salacious, disgusting old man with enough power to shake the entire country (though it’s rather vaguely mentioned between the lines). He is grotesque when sings serenadas to his “beloved” wife (who deeply resents him) or passes the “wisdom” to his grandson (teaching him a lesson about droppings under his shoes.
What interests Sorrentino the most isn’t Berlusconi’s undisputable power, his mob connections, but – unfortunately – the “oonga boonga” part. Berlusconi has been known for his sex scandals and a rather playful life philosophy and that’s exactly the direction in “Loro”. You see, naked women constitute a fair part of you see in the Italian movie – I stopped counting the naked breasts after an hour of the screening.
You might call me prim and proper, but here’s a thing – if von Trier is condescending towards women in “The House That Jack Built”, Sorrentino is more than that. Women in “Loro” are reduced to their physique. Nothing else is interesting in them and the abundance of their naked bodies becomes tiring or – to some extent – repelling. Even if that’s the idea of Sorrentino, it goes far beyond making a point. It turns ugly.
Furthermore, Sorrentino doesn’t provide any ground-breaking reflections. You will not learn much about the perception of Silvio in Italy, neither will you get to know him better. It’s like trying to be Jodorowsky by throwing as much weird, cool-looking stuff into your film, but doing so without any subliminal message. In “Loro”, the subliminal message is lost under the weight of beautifully shot women bodies, frantic editing and plotholes.
“What interests Sorrentino the most isn’t Berlusconi’s undisputable power, his mob connections, but – unfortunately – the “oonga boonga” part.”
It’s important to mention that, at its core, the premise of “Loro” was intriguing. I wanted to see a film about Berlusconi. A film that would paint a picture of that infamous politician. Paolo Sorrentino used a good topic and wrote his own story, spiced it up with Paulo Coelho philosophical inspiration and tried to cheat the viewers with a handful of glossy shots.
I asked a fellow Italian to tell me if I might have missed something in “Loro”. Not to my surprise, the film is completely different for them. It’s unnerving in a grotesque manner, because Sorrentino used real gibberish spit by Berlusconi over the years of his presidency – no need for a script, huh? Still, “Loro” might be too focused on exposing the national perspective and – even if it does transcend some of the political backlash commentary – it is overly convoluted to be understood by an outsider. Which, in my opinion, isn’t a trademark of a good film.
Dir. Paolo Sorrentino
Hate Grade: 8.5/10