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Fringe Report is now closed. Fringe Report closed on its 10th anniversary, Thursday 12 July 2012. It remains online as a record of 10 exciting years in the arts. Till July 2013, previously unwritten content is being added to the site from the past 10 years, but we are no longer reviewing new material. You can still write to us on the existing email addresses. Good luck with your shows.Il Divo (2008)
(Il Divo: La straordinaria vita di Giulio Andreotti / The Extraordinary Life of Giulio Andreotti)
At one level, Il Divo sketches the life of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti (b 1919). from around the 1990s to date. His career includes being prime minister of Italy several times. The title Il Divo - Divo Giulio, Divine Julius - apparently echoes a name for Julius Caesar. His party, the Christian Democrats, eventually foundered around 1994 on corruption charges. He faced charges in court of being connected with the Mafia, and after a series of trials and appeals was acquitted. He continues to be a significant force in Italian politics. (There's more about his life at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giulio_Andreotti).
But only on one level. The events, the facts (if they are), the conspiracies - the plot line, in other words - are really just the thread of the film. The major triumph of director and writer Paolo Sorrentino, paired with an outrageous tour-de-force of a performance in the title role by Toni Servillo - is to produce a walloping film that explodes onto the screen at point zero, and continues the tension and delight for the full 117 minutes. It's very much James Bond territory, with a massive blood-count, fabulous special effects, outrageous prosthetic makeup, gorgeous costumes, wholly unfeasible characters, and an astonishingly good script bristling with bons-mots. There's not a small characterisation in it, or a single example of under-acting - it's dodgem-car, fairground-subtle farce, taking Commedia dell'arte back to the land of its birth via Punch & Judy and English pantomime. No, the Italians don't just talk loudly on their mobile phones and apply hair gel while boiling Spaghetti Bolognese and falling off their Vespas - they live life fortissimo, dangerously, emotionally extravagently; they care passionately; they fight with fists in Parliament; they kill each other constantly and imaginatively. At least they do in Il Divo - a film so brimming with intensity and reckless excess that it redefines the word spectacular. And the music, care of Saint-Saëns, Vivaldi and Sibelius with a ravishing original score from Teho Teardo, is to match.
Giulio Andreotti (Toni Servillo) is an oddly-misshapen man, with his head seemingly attached to his shoulders without a neck. His rubbery face hangs in folds, topped with large glasses. His pretty wife is Livia Danese Andreotti (Anna Bonaiuto), and in their later years, which the film depicts, they seem at first distant. But when the going gets tough - foreshadowed by a remark at the start of the film by Andreotti's devoted personal assistant Signora Enea (Piera Degli Esposti) of a storm gathering, a touching closeness emerges. Livia, clearly, knows her husband well, despite his apparent unknowability.
The film opens with several murders, shown in detail. The background is the series of political assasinations related to The Red Brigades, and the kidnap and assassination of Aldo Moro (1916-1978) (Paolo Graziosi) - who in notes left at the time but emerging later blamed Andreotti for his death - but the further background is perhaps the fundamental instability of Italy both politically and temperamentally, founded on the shaky merging of warring city states.
The film touches many of the social undercurrents of Italian society - the relationship of the catholic church and its clergy to the state; and the relationship between organised crime (the Mafia) and politicians. The assassination of Salvo Lima (Giorgio Colangeli), Andreotti's ally in Sicily, forms a pivot in the film, leading towards Andreotti's trial for alleged contact with the Mafia. Did Andreotti meet with, and kiss in greeting, Mafia boss Don Mario (Alberto Cracco)? Palermo magistrate Scarpinato (Giovanni Vettorazzo) thinks so; the Mafia turncoat, swarthy black-bearded hissable villian DiMaggio, swears so.
Eugenio Scalfari (b 1924) (Giulio Bosetti), founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, plays a major part in the story. Andreotti's friend and colleague - besotted with Andreotti and looked down on as none-too-bright - Franco Evangelisti (1923-1993) (Flavio Bucci) gives dying evidence against Andreotti. Paolo Cirino Pomicino (b 1939) (Carlo Buccirosso) plays a part. Mino Pecorelli (Carmine Pecorelli, 1928-1979) (Lorenzo Gioielli), the journalist shot dead in Rome after Moro's kidnapping - Andreotti was later tried for his murder and acquitted - plays a deceased part. Other players include Vincenzo Scotti (b 1933) (Gianfelice Imparato), Giuseppe Ciarrapico (b 1935) (Aldo Ralli), and Vittorio Sbardella ('The Shark', 1935-1994). Sbardella is propelled barrel-chested through the film as a barnstorming political dealer and life-force in a terrific hi-camp performance by Massimo Popolizio.
There's a touching moment as Andreottia and Livia watch tv as the trial looms. Livia flicks channels away from the bad news to paunchy old-fashioned Italian crooner Renato Zero - played by himself in archive footage - singing I Migliori Anni Della Nostra Vita (The best years of our life), and slips her hand into his. The film moves subtly between intimate moments - Andreotti confessing to a priest, Andreotti tender with his impoverished constituents, Andreotti racked with memories in the stations of the night - and massive spectacle. There are strong performances from all the cast - the casting by Annamaria Sambucco is a quiet triumph all on its own - but it's the remarkable work of Toni Servillo as Andreotti that steals every scene, and locates the centre of the film. His Andreotti is frightening, loveable - the film might seem to take the mask of fact, but it loves the man in its underbelly - and quietly very humourous. And his dialogue, is riveting - bristling with poetry, intellect, sly wit, and - when needed to defend himself - machine-gun-like in verbal articulation.
It's a disappointment of the film that it stops at the trial, only giving the resulting aquittal summary in captions at the end. The trial is the climax, and there's a sense of being cheated by not seeing it. But the story is so massive in incident that it's perhaps unfair to criticise it stopping there. As it is the film brings out an enormous amount of exposition - using devices such as church confession and interviews, people speaking to camera, captions, voice-over that, in lesser hands would be clumsy and boring but are here done with fabulous skill - without it being noticeable. As the film stops, there's a sense of coming out of a remarkable world. Not a real one - although the facts are real (perhaps) - but a proper film world, doing all the best things that only a film can. How unusual to find a film that really is a masterpiece.
CAST (alpha order): Fanny Ardant - Moglie dell'ambasciatore francese (uncredited). Anna Bonaiuto - Livia Danese. Giulio Bosetti - Eugenio Scalfari. Achille Brugnini - Fiorenzo Angelini. Carlo Buccirosso - Paolo Cirino Pomicino. Flavio Bucci - Franco Evangelisti. Giorgio Colangeli - Salvo Lima. Alberto Cracco - Don Mario. Piera Degli Esposti - Signora Enea. Lorenzo Gioielli - Mino Pecorelli. Beppe Grillo - Himself (voice) (archive footage) (uncredited). Paolo Graziosi - Aldo Moro. Gianfelice Imparato - Vincenzo Scotti. Massimo Popolizio - Vittorio Sbardella. Aldo Ralli - Giuseppe Ciarrapico. Cristina Serafini - Caterina Stagno. Toni Servillo - Giulio Andreotti. Giovanni Vettorazzo - Magistrato Scarpinato. Renato Zero - Himself (archive footage) (uncredited). Credits source – www.imdb.com 30 September 08 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023490/); producer's notes at LFF screening 30 September 08.
SOUNDTRACK: La Prima Cosa Bella (Writers - Mogol & Nicola Di Bari; Performers - Ricchi E Poveri); I Migliori Anni Della Nostra Vita (Writers - Guido Morra & Maurizio Fabrizio; Performer - Renato Zero). Toop Toop (Writers - Philippe Olivier Cerboneschi & Hubert Blanc-Francard; Performer - Cassius; Arranger - Mathieu Chedid). Allegro from Concerto for Flute and Strings No 3 in D Major Op 10: Il Gardellino (Writer - Antonio Vivaldi; Performers - Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Conductor -Patrick Gallois). Pavane in F Sharp Minor Op 50 (Writer - Gabriel Fauré; Performers - Choeur De L'Orchestre Symphonique De Montréal; Conductor - Charles Dutoit). Pohjolan Tytär Op 49 (Writer - Jean Sibelius; Performers - Iceland Symphony Orchestra; Conductor - Petri Sakari). Symphony No 3 in C Minor Op 78 (Writer - Camille Saint-Saëns; Performers - Muchner Symphonie Orchestre; Conductor - Alberto Lizzio); Nux Vomica (Writer - Finn Andrews; Performers - The Veils). Da da da, ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha (Writers / Performers - Trio). E La Chiamano Estate (Writers - Luciano Zanin, Franco Califano, Bruno Martino; Performer - Bruno Martino). Gammelpop (Writers / Performers - Barbara Morgenstern & Robert Lippock). Danse Macabre Op 40 (Writer - Camille Saint-Saëns; Performers - CSR Symphony Orchestra; Conductor - Keith Clark). Violin Concerto in D Minor Op 40 (Writer - Camille Saint-Saëns; Performers - CSR Symphony Orchestra; Conductor - Adrian Leaper; Soloist - Dong-Suk Kang). Credits source – www.imdb.com 30 September 08 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023490/).
COMPANY: Director - Paolo Sorrentino. Writer - Paolo Sorrentino. Producers - Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Andrea Occhipinti, Maurizio Coppolecchia. Co-Producer - Fabio Conversi. Associate Producers - Stefano Bonfanti, Gianluigi Gardani. Original Music Composer - Teho Teardo. Cinematographer - Luca Bigazzi. Film Editor - Cristiano Travaglioli. Casting - Annamaria Sambucco. Production Designer - Lino Fiorito. Set Decorator - Alessandra Mura. Costume Designer - Daniela Ciancio. Key Hair Stylist - Aldo Signoretti. Hair Stylist - Marco Perna. Makeup - Vittorio Sodano. Prosthetic Makeup Designer - Vittorio Sodano. Production Manager - Viola Prestieri. Line Manager - Gennaro Formisano. Assistant Director - Davide Bertoni. First Assistant Director - Paolo Bartoli. Direct Sound Recordist - Emanuele Cecere. Sound Editor - Silvia Moraes. Sound Mixer - Angelo Raguseo. Screenplay Consultant - Giuseppe D'Avanzo. Special Effects - Leonardo Cruciano. Visual Effects Artist - Fabio Barretta. Digital Compositor - Fathima Feminò. Compositing Supervisor - Rodolfo Migliari. Data Management Pablo - Mariano Picabea. Scanning & Film Recording - Pablo Mariano Picabea. Visual Effects Supervisor - Nicola Sganga. Digital Film Colourist - Paolo Verrucci. Stunt Rigger - Massimiliano Bianchi. Assistant Camera - Salvatore Bognanni. Steadicam Operator - Alessandro Brambilla. First Assistant Camera B Camera - Paolo Cafiero. Steadicam Operator - Luca Dell'Oro. Electrician - Fabio Policastro. Video Assistant - Alberto Viavattene. Production Secretary - Vincenzo La Gatta. Script Supervisor - Samantha Natalucci. Cat - uncredited. Production Companies - Indigo Film, Lucky Red, Parco Film. Co-Production Companies - Babe Films, StudioCanal, Arte France Cinéma. In collaboration with - Sky. With contribution from - Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali. With the participation of Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC). With the support of - Eurimages. With the collaboration of - Film Commission Torino-Piemonte. With contribution from - Regione Campania Department of Tourism & Cultural Heritage. With the collaboration of - Campania Film Commission. Distributors - Beta Film (worldwide, all media. international sales); Cinemien (Netherlands, theatrical); Homescreen (Belgium, DVD); Homescreen (Netherlands, DVD); Lucky Red (Italy, theatrical). Press Office - Lucky Red. Music Publishing - EMI Music Publishing Italia. Also known as - Il Divo: La straordinaria vita di Giulio Andreotti (Italy). Runtime - 110 min; 117 min (London Film Festival); 118 min (Toronto International Film Festival). Country - Italy, France. Language - Italian, English subtitles. Colour - Colour & Black and White. Filming Locations - Montecitorio, Rome, Lazio, Italy; Naples, Campania, Italy; Palermo, Sicily, Italy; Rome, Lazio, Italy; Turin, Piedmont, Italy. Release Date - 28 May 2008 (Italy); 23 January 2009 (UK). Credits source – www.imdb.com 30 September 08 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023490/); producer's notes at LFF screening 30 September 08
reviewed Tuesday 30 September 08 / press screening / NFT1, National Film Theatre, London
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