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Bruno Bonomo (Silvio Orlando) was a famous producer of b-movies in 70s; after a long hiatus, following the commercial fiasco of "Cataratte", Bonomo is going to be signed by RAI in order to produce a film about Cristoforo Colombo's homecoming. When the director Franco Caspio (Giuliano Montaldo) quits the project, Bonomo is forced to offer another screenplay to RAI, which is "Il Caimano" a screenplay he stumbled upon, written by the young director Teresa (Jasmine Trinca). The film-in-the-film is centered on the figure of Italy's prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, a subject so controversial that even the public television refuse to produce it. While Bonomo's private life collapses piece by piece, as he's divorcing from his wife (Margherita Buy), and the bank is pressing him hard to pay back his long-standing debts, he finds out that struggling to get this movie filmed is the only thing that keeps him alive. Written by
I had never seen a Nanni Moretti movie previously and I was pretty curious since he is the kind of "respected author" among the European critics. Actually a bit more than respected and quite frankly a critics' darling. Knowing this I could fear a self-indulgent movie with little creativity and a bunch of private jokes for the gallery, but I was open minded and ready to be charmed by the story of a delightful raconteur.
Unfortunately this movie is a mess, depicting a bland movie producer at a loss with his professional and private life. This alone could have been the subject of a good, even very good movie (Fellini could have shot this with gusto and the necessary grandeur to make us love a pitiful character) but Moretti, maybe feeling he is on a mission to tilt on the intellectual/political side of Italian cinema, wanted to add an inconsistent background story about the project of a Berlusconi biopic.
This background - which is supposed to be the main focus of the story - never blends in with the personal story of the main character. Is there a parallel between the mid-life crisis of Bruno Bonomo and the political vacuum that brought Berlusconi to power in Italy? Nope, we never feel something of that kind. Bruno Bonomo is at a loss, maybe he wants to assert himself and then the Berlusconi biopic project lands in his life where it doesn't belong but it is very difficult to understand why he would be interested at first since he doesn't realize what the project is about. Then he is stuck with it and won't back away which only further isolates this weakened character.
With this big mess of a plot you've got long minutes to get bored, waiting for the movie to get set on a precise track. And beyond this chore trouble Moretti's directing is not worth more than a TV-stint, his vignettes about Bonomo's Z-movies are painfully ridiculous: self-indulgent, have nothing to do there except reassure Moretti that he does shoot A-movies. Almodovar did this kind of Z-movie jokes decades ago because he started his career shooting those cheap yet energetic movies on his way to polishing his skills as a wonderful director with lovely stories to tell. Almodovar doesn't even need to be branded an author, he proves it every time, even when his movies are not on a par with his best works.
I don't know what is supposed to be Moretti's best work but with what he failed to prove here I'm not too eager to get my eyes on it.
PS about Berlusconi: maybe I was expecting more of a fierce political story and it's a shame that, while bragging it is one, Il Caimano's back-story could have been about the private affairs of some Italian soccer star without changing the main story. Moretti could have been brave and have shot a movie about Berlusconi when he was elected head of the Italian government years before. Or even ten years ago when he was already Il Cavaliere riding through Italy the way he liked. Now this movie is not convincing at discussing the difficulties to make a movie about Berlusconi, let alone being a movie that deals with Berlusconi's obscure connections or about his rise to power as a demagogue opportunist.
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