For more than 50 years, he has been Italy s most powerful, feared and enigmatic politician. And as Giulio Andreotti begins his seventh term as Prime Minister, he and his hardliner faction take control of a country reeling from the brazen murders of several high-level bankers, judges and journalists, as well as the kidnapping and assassination of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro. But as the Christian Democrat party crumbles in a nationwide bribery scandal, suspicion begins to fall on Andreotti himself as the center of a shocking conspiracy involving the Vatican, the Mafia and the secret neo-Fascist Masonic Lodge P2. In what is called The Trial Of The Century, Italy s legendary Senator for Life will stand accused of corruption, collusion and murder.
One of the best reviewed films of the year
Subtitled "the extraordinary life of Giulio Andreotti," director-writer Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo
details the latter portion of the reign of Italy's seven-time prime minister, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party for some 50 years and a guy with more nicknames than James Brown: in addition to Il Divo, Andreotti, who is now in his nineties, has been known as the Sphinx, the Salamander, the Hunchback, Beelzebub, and the Black Pope, among others. He is also widely believed to have been directly connected to the Mafia; and perhaps most infamously, Andreotti was blamed for the death of popular centrist rival Aldo Moro, whom he refused to help when Moro was abducted and then assassinated by leftist radicals in 1978. We first see Andreotti (portrayed by Toni Servillo) in the early 1990s, by which time he has been named Senator for Life and is quietly gloating over the fact that he's outlived nearly everyone who tried to bring him down; by the end, he's the defiant, unrepentant defendant in Italy's Trial of the Century, accused of all sorts of nefarious deeds, including conspiracy, corruption, and murder. In between are a series of exquisite, indelible scenes and images, such as Andreotti walking the streets of Rome in the wee small hours, surrounded by gun-toting bodyguards (Gabriel Faure's Pavane
, the soundtrack in this scene, is but one example of the consistently brilliant use of music, from classical to techno), or the shots of various enemies being eliminated in moments of operatic violence (it's not for nothing that Sorrentino's work has been compared to Coppola and Scorsese's). Servillo, somewhat reminiscent of the late Peter Sellers, delivers a mannered but beautifully measured performance as a man described as "incapable of doubts or thrills." He's as cold and stiff as a wax figure, yet while he speaks quietly (in part due to debilitating migraines), what he does say is usually memorable; invited to dance at one gathering, he replies, "I don't succumb to lesser vices," and when urged to run for President of the Republic, he accepts by saying, "I know I'm of average height, but I don't see any giants around." A triumph of both style and substance, Il Divo
is not only one of the best foreign films of 2008, but one of the best films, period. --Sam Graham