The Movie Waffler Dublin International Film Festival 2019 Review - LORO | The Movie Waffler

Dublin International Film Festival 2019 Review - LORO

loro film review
A pimp seeks an audience with Silvio Berlusconi.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino

Starring: Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen

loro film poster

Loro tells the story of a teflon tycoon who transcended the business world to become the highly divisive leader of his country, running on a platform of right-wing populism while brushing off personal scandals involving dodgy dealings and extra-marital affairs. No, Loro isn't based around the current American President, but Italy's infamous Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon who served as his country's Prime Minister for a total of nine years across four governments despite controversy following him like his rotund shadow.

loro film review

Loro is directed by Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty; TV's The Young Pope), and if you're familiar with his Michael Bay meets Federico Fellini filmmaking style, you know this isn't going to be a subtle political drama. Much like Adam McKay's Dick Cheney biopic Vice, it's something of a comedy roast of its subject, but unlike Vice, you come away from Loro with a sense of who Berlusconi was and how he rose to power.

Sorrentino holds back the first appearance of Berlusconi as though he's the shark in Jaws. For the first hour, Berlusconi is barely mentioned by name - referred to as "Him Him" - let alone seen, as Sorrentino focusses instead on the character of Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), a provincial pimp who uses his stable of girls to bribe and blackmail compromised politicians. Morra has grown tired of his life in Italy's boondocks, and sets off to follow his dream of a glamorous life in Rome. In the Italian capital he meets high class escort Kira (Kasia Smutniak), an Albanian immigrant and one of several women currently bedding Berlusconi. Recognising each other's ruthless ambitions, Sergio and Kira team up in an effort to land a contract for the former's business interests. Assembling a group of MAWs (models, actresses, whatevers), the pair rent a villa opposite Berlusconi's lavish (and very tacky) Sardinian home in an effort to attract his attention.

loro film review

Just when Sorrentino's film is beginning to feel like we're watching Bulgarian MTV, with its endless montages of half-naked girls gyrating to pounding Eurodance tunes, the film reveals the ace up its sleeve - Toni Servillo in the role of Berlusconi. Beginning in 2006, when Berlusconi is out of politics, Loro charts his unscrupulous return to government, bribing six rival senators to win the majority necessary in parliament to once again become Prime Minister. Servillo is a force of nature, his performance so sleazy he leaves a sweat trail everywhere he moves.

As such, Loro is at its strongest when Sorrentino tones down his ADD filmmaking style to allow Servillo to take centre stage. The movie's most memorable scene is a simple phone call in which Berlusconi psyches himself up for a return to politics by picking a random number from the phone book and attempting to sell a non-existent property development to the unwitting recipient of his call. It recalls Philip Baker Hall's performance as Nixon in Robert Altman's single character drama Secret Honor, Servillo close to reaching out of the screen, grabbing the audience by the throat and kissing us on our foreheads.

loro film review

The original Italian cut of Loro, screened in two parts, runs an hour longer than the version offered to international audiences, but even our version could lose another half hour of party scenes, which soon grow monotonous. Yet perhaps this is the point of Sorrentino's film, to illustrate the emptiness of the materialistic life Berlusconi lived and convinced voters it was what they too desired. Despite the attractiveness of the multiple young women Sorrentino packs the screen with, there's a remarkable lack of eroticism to their cynical gyrations. In a key scene, Berlusconi's advances are repelled by a girl who upon finding herself in his boudoir, immediately realises she isn't quite the gold-digger she believed herself to be. The Italian politician, whose breath she claims reminds her of her grandfather, promises her money and trinkets in exchange for her body. "And then what?" is her reply, an existential question politicians could do with being asked more often.

Loro is in UK/ROI cinemas April 19th.

2019 movie reviews