Silvio and Don

January was drawing to a close and soon I’d be off to several trips up north and a couple of house/dog sit gigs. Movies at the cinemas would be replaced by small screen ones and television series. There was still time, though, for a couple of trips into NoHo and the State.

I’d been looking forward to seeing new product from one of my favourite directors for some time. Paolo Sorentino is a master. Delivering us ‘Youth’ and ‘The Great Beauty’ in recent years, as well as the wonderful ‘The Young Pope’ into our lounge rooms, his work is visually a feast for the senses. Coupled with solid story lines, that cause us to ponder on the ways of the world, with his lush and vivid styling, he can be quite compelling.

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Well, the latter was there with ‘Loro’, Italian for them. The lush and vivid was almost lurid. It’s a none too flattering, yet not too destructive, take on the lifestyle of that behemoth of Italian politics, Silvio Berlusconi (Tony Servillo)he of the bunga bunga sex parties and never ending appetite for nubile young things seemingly willing to throw themselves at him in various stages of undress.

We are introduced to the world of the great man by a provider of said women, Sergio (Riccardo Scamarcio). In its initial stages the film concentrates on him. Wanting to advance his standing in the only way he knows, Sergio rents a villa next door to the then opposition leader, constantly scheming to get back into the top job. The wannabe pimp to the rich and famous thinks he’ll catch the eye of the former Italian leader by throwing outrageous parties of his own in hope of an invitation to do the same for Berlusconi. The screen is drenched in colour and topless damsels as Sergio goes all out to achieve his aim – and it eventually occurs. But by now the emphasis has switched to SB as he parades, like an emperor, through his domain. He’s accompanied by his long suffering wife, who has just about had a gut-full, as well as a range of sycophants and wily manipulators. But now the man isn’t the force of nature he once was – his waning energy, an earthquake and a soulless party, organised by his neighbour, start to bring him down. Nothing can hide the fact he now looks and smells of old age.

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Personally, despite rave reviews, I found this outing the least satisfying of the Sorrentino offerings I’ve seen to date. It’s hard to find heart in this showpiece. It’s empty – and that’s perhaps is how it was meant to be.

In comparison ‘Green Book had crept up on me – and as an Oscar contender. As far as heart, this road movie boasts it in great dollops. It is based on a true story – much, but not all, of what you see happened. Afro-American piano-playing star-turn Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) hires Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to drive him on a tour of the Deep South – perhaps parallels with ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ here? We are soon to find out how a black man, having a white chauffeur, will go down over the Mason-Dixon Line. After all, it is 1962. Viggo is terrific as the white guy in the role of driver come trouble-shooter (with emphasis on the shooter bit) for his charge. He earned the job due to his reputation as a fixer. This two-hander, under the obviously astute guidance of director Peter Farrelly, sees a duo of great thesps almost compete with each other to come out tops in the acting chops department. Will either of them take home the big gong for 2019?

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The bullish, street smart Tony gradually charms his aloof gay boss to lighten up and in turn his close proximity to this cultured black musician starts to change his own world view.

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It’s a predictable, but nonetheless, lovely Hollywood ending this movie has in store for us and along the way there’s also a laugh or two. Compared to the other much hyped Oscar nominees, ‘Green Book’ has flown under the radar. But late betting has it in with a shot up against the likes of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘A Star is Born’ et al. That late betting was on the money.

Trailer for ‘Loro’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bj8voOPacE

Trailer fro ‘Green Book’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkZxoko_HC0

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