26 August, 2009

Il Caimano (The Caiman) 2006

Berlusconi, gently skewered

Nanni Moretti (The Last Customer (2003), La stanza del figlio (2001)), a cult director in Italy, brings a unique perspective to this take on 'Il Caimano', the second-longest serving prime minister in the country's history (1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, 2008 onwards).

What is fascinating is how Berlusconi's story goes hand in hand with the film's other central character, cult director Bruno Bonomo (Silvio Orlando), who is struggling, after an extended absence from the silver screen, to turn the vision of young writer Teresa (Jasmine Trinca) into celluloid reality. Thus, in much the same way as Spike Jonze's excellent Adaptation (2002), we are watching both the creative process and parts of the finished product at the same time.

Orlando's performance at once captures the manic intensity of a dedicated artist who is approaching the end of his emotional tether - he is estranged from his wife and former star Paola (an excellent Margherita Buy), and the banks are getting more than a little tetchy concerning his debts. No matter - the show must go on, and the engaging, affectionate and very amusing narrative (adapted by Moretti, Francesco Piccolo, Federica Pontremoli and Heidrun Schleef from Schleef's novel) takes us into the heart of the matter.

In addition, the actual scenes featuring Berlusconi (commanding performances from three diferent actors) serve very well to suggest a far more penatrating film than the personal, perhaps even autobiographical tale of a director's trials that appears to be the story's core.

One is left with the impression that Italian politics is perhaps more chaotic than even the most peculiar film about it could ever be - but Moretti's is a sure hand at the wheel.

Awards: Click here for details.

112 mins. In Italian.

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