The Caiman (15)

Film

Drama

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Time Out says

Thu Oct 19 2006

Nanni Moretti released this attack on Silvio Berlusconi in the run-up to Italy’s elections last April, when the businessman-politician failed to win a third term. It’s surprising, though, considering the film’s positioning as a political instrument, how little ‘The Caiman’ actually deals directly with Berlusconi and how little effort Moretti makes in constructing a case against him. The film’s real interest is fictional delight Bruno Bonomo (Silvio Orlando), a flailing producer of appalling B-movies such as ‘Mocassini Assassini’ who reluctantly agrees to back a cinematic attack on the politician when young writer-director Teresa (Jasmine Trinca) thrusts her script into his hands. It’s only when he begins the soul-destroying process of finding financiers and actors that he warms a little to Teresa’s cause. His mild awakening is superceded by a personal crisis: not only is his career in tatters, but he and his wife (Margherita Buy) are separating. As he struggles to balance family and work, we see some imagined scenes from his Berlusconi film, each reflecting a different stage in its production and each showing Berlusconi played by a different actor, including Moretti himself.

Moretti’s portrait of a loser lingering in the doldrums of Italian cinema is wittily scripted and lightly played. He posits Bruno (an everyman, if he weren’t a filmmaker) as a reflection of a sick society. In that sense, ‘The Caiman’ is subtly political rather than a coruscating, detailed ad hominem attack. It’s uneven: Moretti fails to make Bruno’s family life compelling and those scenes that depict Berlusconi are too few. Which means that commentary on the man is only ever a biographical precis, and the film itself is a frustratingly broad, if entertaining, nudge towards what many sympathetic viewers should find familar: a portrait of a silver-tongued chancer with scant regard for the law.

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