Saturday, 7 April 2007

Montage's must see movie for April: Il Caimano - Review by Emma J Lennox

Director: Nanni Moretti
Screenwriter: Nanni Moretti and Heidrun Schleef
runtime: 112 minutes
Edinburgh Film house April 6-19

Bruno Bonomo drives through the streets of Rome in the early morning hours. Suddenly the massive hull of 'the Gallician', Christopher Columbus' ship, sweeps onto the road ahead. Figures attired as 15th century sailors stand abreast the wooden colossus, illuminated by florescent lights, as they glide silently onto the motorway. The mortified Bruno (Silvio Orlando), was once the producer of the Columbus biopic, until he suggested they film it with his son's toy ship. Bruno is the tragic/comic protagonist of Nanni Moretti's latest success, Il Caimano. The film takes an Altmanesque swipe at the Italian film industry and cameos a dozen directors, including Paolo Sorrentino (The Consequences of Love) and Michele Placido (Romanzo Criminale). But it is the politics of Silvio Berlusconi which is the object of Moretti's venom and to whom the title, meaning a type of alligator, refers. Il Caimano evokes Fellini's scathing satire and Godard's political reflexive awareness, which Moretti uses to characterise Italy's present identity: “dear Bruno,” one Polish producer tells Bruno, “you are a people between horror and folklore.”

Il Caimano presents four versions of Berlusconi; one is a mysterious fantasy of Bruno's imagination, two others are actors' portrayals (performed by Moretti and Placido), but the most absurd, unappealing Berlusconi is provided in archive footage. The former Prime Minister's departure will ratify Moretti's elite of writers and directors but it will also cause cultural ramifications across the country. According to the Economist, Berlusconi had control of 90% of Italy's press during his premiership. This was verified by the Freedom of Press 2004 Global Survey which downgraded Italy's media from 'free' to 'partly free'. The chance for recuperation may release a cognisant effort to reform and a new wave in Italian cinema. The website YouTube is already full of amateur outpourings, it remains to be seen if the professionals will follow.

The £1.3 million opening weekend gross and Berlusconi's subsequent exit confirms home opinions, and marks a historical place for the story's politics, but a human touch and a very personal portrait ensures Il Caimano has longevity. Moretti worries about damages to perceptions of Italy and asks in the film, “what must they think of us abroad?” Nominated for the Palm d'or in 2006, it garnered distribution across Europe and Scandinavia reaching Brazil and Australia soon after. Il Caimano proves that Moretti's reputation, if not Italy's, is assured.

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