The renaissance of Italian cinema
Italian cinema is undergoing something of a risorgimento at the moment, with this autumn’s winners ‘Gomorrah’ and ‘Il Divo’. Dave Calhoun wonders whether we have Silvio Berlusconi to thank for it
The first to hit screens is ‘Gomorrah’. The name plays on Camorra, the Neapolitan crime syndicate whose stranglehold on waste disposal has been giving Berlusconi a hard time, and Gomorrah, the Old Testament town famously twinned with Sodom. The drama – which follows several separate stories – is a breathtaking and unglamorous look at organised crime in modern Naples and came within a hair’s breadth of winning the Palme d’Or in Cannes this year.
‘Gomorrah’ is a composite portrait of corruption and crime set against the backdrop of an impoverished Naples. In front of a bleak suburban landscape by the sea, two young hotheads run about with guns quoting ‘Scarface’, while elsewhere a textile factory manager regrets moonlighting for a Chinese rival, a benign-looking businessman doesn’t bat an eyelid while burying toxic waste in a disused quarry and a sweet-faced pre-teen begins his apprenticeship for local hard men by running errands and keeping his smart, impressionable eyes open to the rituals and codes that surround him. The director, 39-year-old Matteo Garrone, drew his script from a best-selling book by Roberto Saviano – a young investigative writer who’s now under police protection.
The other film that’s exciting followers of the Italian cinema scene is ‘Il Divo’, the third offering from 38-year-old auteur Paolo Sorrentino after ‘The Consequences of Love’ and ‘The Family Friend’. It’s a crazy, witty, playful musical of an ad hominem assassination job which turns the life and controversial career of former prime minister Giulio Andreotti into a grotesque carnival of prosthetic ears, deathly make-up, incongruous music, striking tableaux, creepy caricatures and an ever-travelling camera which delves into the nooks and crannies of Italian politics. But the beauty of ‘Il Divo’ is that the details don’t matter; the mood alone does the job of drawing the dodgy links between the state, the church, the Mafia and big business.
Could it be that Berlusconi’s Italy, derided as it is by the left, is inspiring a more hard-nosed, daring Italian cinema than we’ve seen for a long while? I’ve been at international film festivals where the inclusion of an Italian film in the line-up has elicited groans from fellow critics. Which means that anything fresh, invigorating and politically incisive is both welcome and long overdue.
‘Gomorrah’ opens Oct 10. ‘Il Divo’ screens at the London Film Festival and opens Jan 23 2009.
Author: Dave Calhoun
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’