A long awaited cinematic portrayal of media tycoon and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his contemporaries directed by Paolo Sorrentino (The Young Pope, Oscar winner The Great Beauty) and initially released in Italy in two parts last year, Loro has been given a makeover and a fresh cut for its international release, out in the UK on the 19thof April.
Set in the mid to late 2000s, Loro at first portrays a variety of businessmen and politicians all desperately attempting to ingratiate themselves with Silvio Berlusconi (Toni Servillo). In the second part, it suddenly switches gear to focus on the billionaire himself and his private life.
The word Loro is an Italian pronoun to describe ‘them’ and, in this case, it is also intended as a play on words; l’oro (same pronunciation) literally translates as ‘the gold’, aptly titled for a movie that’s a depiction of abundance, debauchery, greed and ambition to strike gold at all costs.
Sorrentino has chosen to depict a crucial time in Berlusconi’s life, where his legendary parties at his villa in Sardinia and his separation from his long suffering wife made headlines nationally as well as internationally, and gave birth to the now infamous ‘bunga bunga’ parties, an expression now used to reference ‘an orgy involving powerful leaders’.
But Loro is also a fascinating interpretation of what has driven Berlusconi to such feverish success, that desperate need to constantly underline his accomplishments and his status of an undisputedly powerful and virile man. Tellingly, despite his wealth and power, a remarkable scene shows the elderly tycoon on the phone trying to sell an apartment that’s never been built, to prove himself that he’s still got the touch of the narcissistic, self made salesman and entrepreneur, that skill and blind determination that had bewitched investors and voters alike.
Loro’s first act opens with a character called Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), a determined businessman from Puglia who bribes local politicians and lures them with his army of young escorts to get his way, ready to do anything to ingratiate himself to the billionaire politician. And this opening scene sets the tone for what’s to come, as the film is constantly dotted by wild, drug fuelled parties within extravagant and luxurious settings and stunning, half naked women orbiting around power mad, greedy and corrupt men.
Often an uncomfortable watch as women are used to manipulate and obtain favours, yet Sorrentino’s irony comes through beautifully when a young girl turns down the most powerful man because his breath reminds her of her grandfather. The tycoon’s beatific smile appears to temporary dampen and shows an old man trying to fight back to stay in the spotlight, to be loved by everyone, with his touching yet pathetic efforts to win back the wife who’s about to leave him.
As it was originally shot and devised as two separate movies, this new condensed version still feels like two films in one, where the switch from one chapter to the next happens so suddenly, it makes it hard to see it as one film altogether.
I struggled to follow its plot and its unrealistic dialogues, despite brilliant performances by Toni Servillo and Elena Sofia Ricci as Veronica Lario. It felt as though the overall structure and narrative has been lost in this edit. And yet, despite a variety of negative reviews, there’s something quite appealing about Sorrentino’s latest film.
Loro, in its 145 min cut, is out in cinemas across the UK this Friday.
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