Like most good Americans, I know fuckall about the rest of the world’s political systems or even basic doings. I’d be hard pressed to name most of the countries in Africa, more than half of the European capitals, or five world leaders other than the ones who’ve been demonized by Trey Parker and Matt Stone — so ronery. While you don’t need a healthy knowledge of Italian politics to appreciate Paolo Sorrentino’s scathingly daring bio-pic about Giulio Andreotti, the infamous prime minister and senator of Italy, much is lost in translation. It’d be like watching an entire season of the “Sopranos” condensed to 90 minutes. Instead of being horrified by the deaths of famous political figures, you just watch a whirling collection of goombas getting whacked by other goombas on Vespas. Still, it’s got a snazzy beat and a brilliant lead performance by Toni Servillo as Andreotti.
Andreotti has been called among other things “The Black Pope,” “The Hunchback,” and “The Prince of Darkness.” Throughout the film, he’s depicted as this suitcase-cramped version of a slightly melted Henry Kissinger, wheeling about with his characteristic slouch and stiff gait. He almost never smiles, fixing everything with a calm and calculating gaze. Andreotti speaks in Sun Tzu-isms that even now business majors are dashing to tattoo parlors to have written across their shoulder blades in script: “Power is a disease one has no desire to be cured of.” It’s like watching Droopy Dog reenact the Godfather. All around him, opponents and double crossers are getting blasted with bullets as Andreotti watches from the shadows. When one of his political enemies Aldo Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigade, Andreotti refused to negotiate, and Moro’s body was found riddled with 55 bullets.
The film sparkles with the passion of most Italian works, with the bombast and joie de vivre one would expect. Stolid politicians can be seen dancing at exotic raves, shrieking fists waving in the senate, and lurking in cadres waiting to maul their enemies. While it’s easy to enjoy the film based solely on the spirit and mania of the atmosphere, the story itself drags on for over two hours. It’s hard to keep track of the various mafiosos, politicos, and other oh-wee-oh-wee-ohs that make up the cast. While Italian audiences might recoil in horror watching a famous journalist get shot in the face or seeing the blanket draped corpse of Aldo Moro hosed with machineguns, to us, it’s less shocking than seeing Moe Green take one in the spectacles when getting a massage.
I feverishly await the death of Andreotti, if only so his vile life-long journals may be published, and we will finally get a glimpse into the wicked mind of this devilish genius. He’s the worst kind of monster. One that’s vaguely moralistic, one that dotes on his wife, abstains from liquor and drugs, and fears nothing. He only accepts God as his final judge and doesn’t care a whit for what others think of him. It makes me long for a good ol’ fashioned asskicking in the Capitol building, Robert’s Rules be damned.
Brian Prisco lives in a pina down by the mer-port of Burbank, by way of the cheesesteak-laden arteries of Philadelphia. Any and all grumblings can be directed to priscogospel at hotmail dot com.