Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Most reviews I read call this movie operatic. I call it the most visually dramatic I have seen lately. This is really a dark movie and I do not mean the genre I mean what you see in the screen as Marco Bellocchio plays with true Chiaroscuro both in black and white and with color. Yes, it’s not a mistake, he plays Chiaroscuro with color! Add one scene with animation, some granular grayish takes, lots of huge capital letters forming words to convey messages, real old footage of movies (including one with Charles Chaplin), news reels with Benito Mussolini and you have the most unusual History lesson and (sort of) biopic that you could think of.

But it’s not the biography of Mussolini. According to what I read the story appears to be recently discovered or released and tells all about Ida Dalser, the first Mussolini’s wife that he made disappear in a series of mental institutions, separating her from Il Duce firstborn, a son that eventually becomes as mad as Mussolini. Have to admit that the story is compelling and interesting, but somehow with all the splendid images you definitively care less for the story. Not a great storytelling technique as visuals are truly arresting and relegate an interesting story to a secondary plateau.

Definitively great Giovanna Mezzogiorno got an award winning role and I wont be surprised if the honors she already started to collect in 2009 will continue next year in the Italian awards. But unfortunately most of her performance also goes to the back and visuals predominate; still there are a few scenes where she’s just fantastic.

I don’t clearly know what I was expecting from this movie, but definitively I was not expecting so many arresting and breath taking visuals that absolutely play with viewers grabbing their attention to the light and darkness especially in the first third, some amazingly beautiful compositions (especially the snow scene), the real era footage (one reel with Mussolini speech clearly showing his madness) and the use of color contrasting so much the odd darkness or the black and white old footage.

One thing absolutely called my attention and is the many scenes at a movie theater and us viewers being able to watch (even with close ups) the movie or the news reels (most with the real Mussolini); but what is mind blowing is how Bellocchio was able to integrate those old movies and footage into the story, truly flawless!

Absolutely not for all audiences even when I know that the story is interesting and compelling; this is a very dark (literally) and dramatic visual storytelling that I do believe will appeal to those that enjoy serious cinema and visually very dramatic art cinema.

I had a hard time with the first third of the movie, there where too many sex scenes that for me was too much. Since the first sex scene I got Mussolinni was obsessed with power and not love or falling in love. Still, I loved the visuals, enjoyed the so few great Mezzogiorno scenes and now that I’m writing about the film I have to say that I enjoyed the compelling story, also co written by Bellocchio from his own inspiration.

Definitively the less mainstream movie from 2009 Cannes from the few I have seen and the most typical festival movie from all I have seen up-to-date.


Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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