Loro is Sorrentino’s new cinematic Diptych

Loro is Sorrentino’s new cinematic diptych, inspired by Italian media tycoon and politician who served as Prime Minister of Italy in four governments: Silvio Berlusconi. In the first movie, Loro 1, audiences can perceive a complex and sophisticated analysis of what certain men are willing to do to join the upper echelons of power.

The history of Silvio Berlusconi is just a pretext to represent this grotesque pursuit. Some members of his entourage and relatives are wittily included, with artistic license and perspicacious humour. In fact, the film begins with a quote by Giorgio Manganelli, an Italian writer and literary critic, who wrote in the preface of his book about Pinocchio “Everything is documented, everything is arbitrary.”

The film takes some time to introduce us to Toni Servillo’s interpretation of Silvio Berlusconi and Elena Sofia Ricci playing a very sophisticated version of his wife Veronica Lario, a gorgeous and fervent bookworm who is fond of the Nobel Prize winning writer José Saramago. The first part of the movie focuses on the social climber Sergio Morra — Riccardo Scamarcio’s version of Gianpaolo Tarantini, Silvio Berlusconi’s escort businessman. This man seems willing to do anything to get close to the President. The sexuality of the bunga bunga parties is anticipated by the carousel staged in Sardinia by Morra, to attract Berlusconi’s attention. Female bodies are flaunted with a rock n’roll hedonistic style, that echoes Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.

The story is set in 2006, with Berlusconi in the pits and Santino Recchia, a Minister played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio, who is trying to double-cross him. This character seems to mix a variety of politicians that were close to Berlusconi, from Paolo Cirino Pomicino to Sandro Bondi who composed poetry.

Women are undoubtably the protagonists of Loro 1, from Morra’s wife, Tamara (Euridice Axen) — who is pivotal in her husband’s ascension to join “those who matter” — to the entire harem of the President. Besides his wife, we meet his personal secretary, Marinella (Michela Cescon); Cupa Caiafa (Anna Bonaiuto), similar to Berlusconi’s political ally Daniela Santanché; Noemi Letizia, the Neapolitan young girl who called Berlusconi ‘Papi,’ that he visited for her coming of age party. Then we have the experienced woman from Albania, who is very close to the President: Kira (Kasia Smutniak). She wears a butterfly charm — a frequent gift that the real Berlusconi gave to his ladyfriends. Kira’s character (an Eastern European version of “Ruby the Heart Stealer”) juxtaposes with Stella (Alice Pagani), the ingenue that is drawn into Morra’s corrupted circus.

Many of Berlusconi’s unpopular remarks are included in the script, with wit and sagacity. “I have nothing against homosexuals, 25% of me is gay, but it’s lesbian,” is just one of them. The former Prime Minister’s derision of the Judiciary system and his desire to prevail in all fields, is depicted with satirical poignancy.

Sorrentino’s chimerical inclusion of animals — as the giraffe and flamingos in The Great Beauty — is strongly present in Loro 1. A sheep is the first living being that appears on the screen (possibly a reference to when Berlusconi was portrayed cuddling lambs during a vegetarian Easter campaign); we then find a white poodle (that clearly  echoes the pet Dudù that belongs to Francesca Pascale, Belusconi’s very young and steady girlfriend); in the meantime a rat rummages around the streets of Rome (a blatant critique to the current mayor’s inadequate handling of the rubbish crisis); and the grandeur of the Caput Mundi is enhanced with a dromedary, that adorns a lavish party, and a rhinoceros that rampages around the town erratically.

Most importantly Loro, that literally translates as “Them,” melanges a variety of philosophical concepts of “Otherness,” to mirror the squalor of the human being. Levinas’ sense of Other, that each of us encounter directly, coalesces with Jacques Lacan’s Big Other, that is unreachable by the individual and determines men’s normative orientation; Furthermore, Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil seems to apply perfectly to Sorrentino’s film. Loro 1 is an exquisite depiction of the “Evilness of Banality,” represented by a conventional self-made man whose political enterprises failed, and were obnubilated by his vivacious private affairs.

A review of part two is here.