Loro 1 (2018) ☆☆(2/4): The Bonfire of the Banalities

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I often found myself numb and displeased as watching Italian film “Loro 1”, the first half of another ambitious work from Paolo Sorrentino. As relentlessly pushing us into many gaudy moments of hedonistic debauchery, the movie attempts to present vividly the banal evil and decadence of its superficial main characters, but it ultimately comes to us as a mere exercise in excessiveness, and we are just left with hollow impression without much expectation on whatever will follow next.

While the movie is supposed to be about notorious real-life Italian businessman/politician Silvio Berlusconi, its first act mainly revolves around Sergio Morra (Riccardo Scamarcio), a sleazy and unscrupulous business man operating in a rural Italian city named Taranto. When we meet him for the first time, he is trying to bribe a local political via one of young, sexy ladies working for him, and it does not take much for that politician to accept what is presented right in front of his eyes and then do some favor for Morra’s father, a honest man who is not so pleased about what his son did behind his back.

Along with his current girlfriend Tamara (Euridice Axen), Morra is eager to get out of Taranto and then go to Rome, and they are certainly quite willing to do anything for getting closer to the sweet smell of success and power emanated from Berlusconi and his dirty rotten associates. While Tamara, who is as cynical and decadent as Morra, has seduced an old politician who is one of the members of Berlusconi’s inner circle, Morra approaches to Kira (Kasia Smutniak) because she is known to have been in a very close relationship with Berlusconi, but Berlusnoci, who recently lost the election as facing a major scandal, is frequently unavailable no matter how much they try to reach to him.

In the meantime, Morra and Tamara throw themselves into lots of debaucheries along with numerous beautiful young girls quite ready to sell themselves. Cocaine and alcohol always come handy to them, and sex becomes more or less than a commodity to be traded between them and those horny politicians and businessmen in Rome. At one point, a certain young woman is sent to a mysterious figure who seems to be more influential than Berlusconi, and what she comes to do for that figure is not very pleasant to say the least.

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Everything eventually culminates to a wild daytime party held at Morra’s mansion located in Sardinia, which happens to be right next to a mansion where Berlusconi is currently residing. During this part, Sorrentino and his crew members pull out all the stops for more excessiveness to behold, and we are served with a number of stylish moments including the one showing thousands of drug pills falling over Morra and other people at his party.

Nonetheless, Berlusconi, who finally appears on the screen after that loony party sequence, is not that interested in whatever is going on in Morra’s place. Quite concerned about what will be next for his political/business career, he tries to draw some attention from his wife Veronica (Elena Sofia Ricci), but she does not show much affection to him even when he wears silly Arabic clothes, and she is now considering having her own private time while being away from him for a while.

The movie continues to make a fun of Berlusconi through a series of absurd comic moments, but these moments are not so impressive compared to what we saw from Sorrentino’s previous works such as “Il Divo” (2008), “The Great Beauty” (2013), and “Youth” (2015), and the movie also considerably suffers from its lack of human personality to engage us. Compared to Giulio Andreotti in “Il Divo” (2008), who is incidentally another infamous real-life figure in the Italian political history, Berlusconi in the film is merely banal on the whole, and he does not even have enough self-awareness unlike the heroes of “The Great Beauty” and “Youth”.

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In addition, other notable characters in the film including Morra remain to be unlikable caricatures we come to watch from the distance without much care or attention. While I guess Morra is supposed to be the reflection of how much the Italian society was willing to go along with Berlusconi’s corruption and decadence, the screenplay by Sorrentino and his co-writer Umberto Contrarello does not try much to give Morra any human depth except one very brief scene between him and Tamara’s children, and it is also often very uncomfortable to watch how the movie objectifies many female characters in the film along with Morra and other male characters in the film, who usually regard women as nothing but objects to satiate their lecherous desire.

At least, “Loro 1” is not entirely without good things to be appreciated. Like Sorrentino’s previous films, the movie keeps rolling with style and mood, and I did enjoy several nice stylish scenes such as the one involved with a sudden traffic accident. As Berlusconi, Toni Servillo, who was memorable in “Il Divo” (2008) and “The Great Beauty” (2013), gives another solid performance to watch, and his presence certainly elevates the film to some degree.

Overall, “Loro 1” feels like a pointless prelude to what will be shown next, and I was especially disappointed to see that it does not give much insight into its subjects while only scratching the surface. Maybe I should have learned a bit more about Berlusconi’s life and career in advance before watching it, but the movie still frustrated and confused me without much satisfaction, and that is all.

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