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Return to Table of Contents February 2010 Return to Table of Contents
The Wolfman
Dollhouse
Chris Menges
Presidents Desk
Post Focus
DVD Playback
Angel Heart
The Exiles
Il Divo
ASC Close-Up
Il Divo (2008)
2.35:1 (16x9 Enhanced)
Dolby Digital 5.1
MPI Home Video, $27.98



Il Divo opens with two quotes, the first from the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci: “True power does not need arrogance, a long beard and a barking voice. True power strangles you with silk ribbons, charm and intelligence.” Such has been the tack of Giulio Andreotti, a dominant force in Italian politics for more than 50 years and the subject of Paolo Sorrentino’s feature Il Divo. Taking its title from one of the politician’s many colorful nicknames — which also include “The Sphinx,” “The Hunchback” and “The Black Pope” — the film finds the enigmatic, migraine-plagued Andreotti (Toni Servillo) at the beginning of his seventh term as prime minister, a troubled period for Andreotti and Italy as a whole. On the heels of a failed presidential bid, a political scandal tore through Andreotti’s Christian Democrat Party, and, finally, “Il Divo” himself was tried (though ultimately acquitted) for alleged Mafia connections.

Avoiding courtroom drama, the film focuses on Andreotti’s slow trek through his own dark night of the soul during his seventh term. His inner demons are manifested on screen with a rich use of shadow that frequently envelops Andreotti; the dynamic range cinematographer Luca Bigazzi realized with his Fujifilm negative is faithfully rendered on this DVD, which also offers a crisp reproduction of the color palette Bigazzi finessed with digital-intermediate colorist Paolo Verrucci at Cinecittà’s Digital Film Lab. (MPI has also released Il Divo on Blu-ray.) A creature of darkness that only escapes into the outdoors at night, Andreotti is almost always seen under a warm tungsten or sodium glow; the exceptions are a handful of scenes with a cool, blue cast in which his vice-like grip on control momentarily weakens.

Although Andreotti presents a restrained and soft-spoken (albeit sharp-witted) persona, those around him are far more brash and colorful. At no moment in the film is this dichotomy better illustrated than during a party at which Chancellor of the Exchequer Paolo Cirino Pomicino (Carlo Buccirosso) is host. The filmmakers explore the party in a roving, minute-and-a-half-long Steadicam shot that weaves through room after room of dancing and drunkenness before settling on Andreotti, quietly seated next to his wife, Livia (Anna Bonaiuto). The two stand to leave, and as they politely bid goodnight, the camera — still without a cut — begins another lap around the revelrous manse.

Throughout Il Divo, the camera moves with a studied precision that echoes Andreotti’s own studied — some might even say “rehearsed” — demeanor. Frequently underscoring the prime minister’s authority by centering him in the frame, the filmmakers are not afraid to punctuate a dramatic beat with a static shot or enhance the tension amongst Italy’s Council of Ministers with a subtle application of handheld operating. There are hints of inspiration from the likes of director Martin Scorsese as well as cinematographer Gordon Willis, ASC, but always filtered through Sorrentino’s singular vision, which is further enhanced by the bold film editing of Cristiano Travaglioli and sound editing of Silvia Moraes. The sound design is also complemented by an eclectic mix of pop and rock ’n’ roll, as well as composer Teho Teardo’s experimental score, which thunders out of the speakers in the Dolby audio mix.

Although his answers do not shed much light on the technical side of the film’s production, AC readers will be pleased to see Bigazzi interviewed in two of the special features on the disc. The 31-minute “Making of Il Divo” features interviews with Bigazzi; Sorrentino; Travaglioli; Teardo; Moraes; producers Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima and Andrea Occhipinti; and actors Servillo, Piera Degli Esposti (Mrs. Enea) and Bonaiuto. The seven-minute “Special Effects Featurette” cuts between interviews with Bigazzi and visual-effects supervisor Nicola Sganga; most impressive here are the before-and-after wipes, which reveal the many contributions of the film’s seamless and subtle effects.

Rounding out the special features are a collection of 11 deleted scenes (totaling 12 minutes) and a 12-minute interview with Sorrentino. Of the deleted footage, a meeting between Andreotti and Gorbachev inside the Kremlin is a gem, although it is not missed in the film’s final cut. Meanwhile, Sorrentino’s solo interview nicely complements the “making of” piece, emphasizing the conceptual balance the film strikes between documented history and Sorrentino’s exploration of a figure who is, in real life, something of a fictional construct. Andreotti, the director observes, recognized the need for a politician to be an actor; thus, the second quote from the beginning of the film, this one from Il Divo himself: “We learn from the Gospel that when they asked Jesus what the truth was, he did not reply.”

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