It’s hard to get five words deep into any write up about Il Divo without reading the words “Scorsese” or “The Godfather”. In fact, right on the box, the top line reads “The Godfather meets Nixon”, so you can throw “Nixon” into the mix, too. What is most surprising is that, for once, the box blurbs are exactly right on the nose – if Scorsese directed a combination of The Godfather and Nixon in Italian, the only possible result would be Il Divo.
Actor Toni Servillo plays real-life Italian ‘Senator for Life’ Giulio Andreotti, a 90-year-old political powerhouse who has been accused of everything from corruption to murder in his long career and managed to survive it all. He’s surrounded by a team of cartoonish advisers and friends – The Shark is played by a man in an obvious fat suit, for instance – who all seem as driven by the success of Andreotti as Andreotti himself. There is no higher goal, it seems, than reaching the next level of the political ladder. And when things don’t go his way, people have a way of dropping dead. And Andreotti has a way of coming out smelling like a rose.
Servillo plays Andreotti like a cross between Droopy the Dog and Nosferatu, hunched and creepy, but also sort of lovable. Is he really responsible for all the mayhem going on around him? Of course he is. And monstrously so. Interesting then that the movie has such a sense of humor about him and everything comes off like a grotesque comedy. The makers never give us that wink, that damning moment that says “A-ha! He’s behind it all.” They play it very much as it must’ve seemed for the rest of the country, who had no real evidence outside of a sick gut feeling. In fact, much of the time, Andreotti seems like a savant, a political passive observer, bringing to mind Peter Seller’s Chauncy from Being There. Which probably goes some distance to explaining why he was never convicted.
Andreotti survives so many accusations and investigations that the movie doesn’t feel like it has a story so much as it wants you to marvel at how far this guy can go on so little gas. And more than a little bit, the film wants to tell you what a monster this man is without just coming out and saying it. It wants you to hear the facts, see everything play out, and to believe. Which is easy to do, though the fact-after-fact build of the story wears a bit thin by the end. Keeping things lively are the swooping, dollying cameras and pop rock soundtrack that echo Scorsese so strongly it makes the movie feel like not such an amazing find sometimes and more like an stylistic exercise.
What sets the film apart is that dark sense of humor. The whole story is so deadly serious maybe this is the only way it could be presented – you have to laugh to keep from crying. And in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re Italian or not, whether you were directly affected by this man or never heard of him before. The film still serves as a reminder of how imperfect our democracies can be and what kind of corruption can flourish in the halls of power.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and is beautifully shot and richly detailed. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 in Italian with English subtitles and handles the lows of quiet dialogue and highs of rock tracks and raging violence well.
‘Making of’ Il Divo – An in-depth look at the meaning behind and process of making ‘Il Divo’. Interviews with key cast and crew – even the editor! Clearly, this is not a standard behind-the-scenes piece. (31:03)
Special Effects Featurette – A piece detailing the special effects of the movie, which included more CG than is at first apparent. (7:18)
Deleted Scenes – A healthy archive of deleted and extended scenes from the film. (11:53)
Interview with Director Paolo Sorrentino – A solid interview with writer/director Sorrentino detailing what drove him to make the film. (12:14)
The artistic touches of Il Divo sometimes distract, but it is an energetic and powerful movie nonetheless.
MPI Media Group presents Il Divo. Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino. Starring: Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Giulio Bosetti, Falvio Bucci, Carlo Buccirosso. Running time: 110min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 27, 2009. Available at Amazon.com