Vincere

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Vincere

Among the things you can learn at the movies this week: Benito Mussolini was red-hot in il sacco. As a sexy union organizer, the budding fascist (Timi) looms large in bed over the pale body of our heroine, Ida (Mezzogiorno), one hand throttling her neck, his eyes bulging with dominance. She digs it. It’s not long, plotwise, before Ida is splayed nude across the bed, having sold all her possessions to fund a newsletter. Even as her man is swept away on a tide of populism, Ida carries the flame—she sees the plebs rising up to salute his image at the cinema and knows she was there first.

Vincere, an extraordinarily operatic affair, then becomes the ultimate he-never-called-me-back film. (It should have been marketed as an artier He’s Just Not That Into You.) The real-life marriage claim of Ida Dalser remains contested, but it’s clear that Mussolini returned from the WWI front a changed man, prone to eliminating records and erasing the inconvenient. The movie plays up these reversals of fortune with epic, Italianate sweep, born aloft by Carlo Crivelli’s juicy wall-to-wall score, a spikier take on Ennio Morricone’s lushness. Ida cries at the bars of her mental institution while passersby call her “Mussolina”; Benito Jr., the grown-up love child (also Timi), also goes crazy and starts spouting a spot-on impression of Papa.

Almost as an afterthought to the ringingly true performances—and Marco Bellocchio’s unusually approachable direction—comes a deft analysis of fascism, likened to lovesickness, insanity and a gust of orchestral strings. It’s all of that and more, not to mention a lousy matchmaker.—Joshua Rothkopf

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