The first hour of Paulo Sorrentino’s ‘Loro’ is a hedonist swirl of sex and drugs, followed by more sex and more drugs. Coke is snorted off prostitutes’ bums, CGI ecstasy pills rain from the sky, while bikini-clad models and actresses dance until they collapse. It feels sensationalist, crass even. Then again, this is the story of ex-Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi – and how else do you depict a man infamous for his ‘bunga bunga’ parties?
From there, the film zeroes in on Berlusconi himself. Long-time Sorrentino compagno Toni Servillo (‘The Great Beauty’, ‘Il Divo’) pitches him somewhere between silly old letch in his Sardinian villa and merciless mob boss with Italy in his grip. Whatever he does, you can’t look away from those smiling eyes, beaming from that DayGlo-orange face.
Some might take issue with how Sorrentino depicts this gaudy world, but as ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ showed, there’s an art to portraying excess. Sorrentino, like Scorsese, has the skill to pull it off. Underneath its lurid carapace, Berlusconi’s life is shown to be terrifying and sad. He and his minions have no interest in helping anyone, only in squeezing every last drop of life from their rapidly decaying bodies. Sure, it’s easy to get lost in the surreal, Bacchanalian orgies, but at its heart ‘Loro’ is a fascinating exploration of what happens to a morally vacuous man as he grows old. Even one who was once the Papi of Italy.