Review by alison traynor
Watching Loro, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s biopic of Silvio Berlusconi, is an interesting experience, in the same way that sitting on a see-saw in the midst of an earthquake might be described as interesting. It is an idiosyncratic, chaotic, and often nonsensical piece of filmmaking that refuses to adhere to anything that vaguely resembles traditional structures. Of course, breaking the rules is often a wonderful thing, but in the case of Loro it simply does not work.
One of the most shambolic aspects of the film is its tonal inconsistency. At times, it seems as though Sorrentino is attempting to create a run-of-the-mill biopic of the Italian ex-prime minister; at others, it appears that he is in fact trying to visually simulate an acid trip. Sadly, he fails in both of these pursuits.
In terms of cinematography, Loro is at least consistently aesthetically pleasing thanks to the talent of its cinematographer Luca Bigazzi. However, behind the beauty there is little substance. The images that the film evokes are very quirky and surrealist in style: at its beginning, it depicts a sheep having a seizure and dying graphically; later, a truck crashes and explodes, and the airborne wreckage magically transforms into thousands of hallucinogens that fall from the sky onto a party of partially-clothed women. One would generally assume that there must be some sort of symbolic meaning behind all of this peculiarity, but with each passing minute it becomes increasingly clear that Loro cannot be taken at anything other than face value.
Anybody who knows anything about the notoriously controversial Berlusconi will be aware of his penchant for exploiting women, so it would be natural to assume a bikini-wearing woman or ten might make an appearance on-screen for the sake of authenticity. However, Loro descends into something that more closely resembles a pornographic fever dream, with nude and scantily-clad women frequently performing dance routines for no apparent reason, and with unabashedly dehumanising shots of women’s cleavage making an all too prominent appearance. In this way, it is not just the characters who objectify and patronise women, but the film itself. It is a pity that it does not act as a critique of Berlusconi and his crew’s behaviour, or even as a neutral depiction of true events, but instead celebrates the debauchery of these inherently misogynistic men.
Moreover, Sorrentino does not yet appear to have grasped the concept of editing, which makes the film exhaustingly protracted. I will be eternally grateful that Irish cinemas are showing the new international cut, at an already drawn-out 151 minutes long. The original version spans 204 minutes which I would not recommend, except perhaps as an alternative to self-flagellation, if that happens to be your thing. If you would like to gain an understanding of the film without wasting several hours of your life, you can just sing “The Real Slim Shady” in an Italian accent, which will take you just under four and a half minutes and is guaranteed to be a much less painful experience.
Loro opens on April 19th at the IFI.