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Il Caimano belongs to the Nanni Moretti style of film-making that I
prefer, film-making with the imaginative uniqueness, delightfully
neurotic smart-ass polemic and personal flair of Palombella Rossa, as
opposed to the near-documentary style of the (albeit very pleasant, but
a tad too autobiographical) Aprile, or the more traditional drama of La
Stanza Del Figlio. Il Caimano opens with a sequence very reminiscent of
Bianca: a grotesque Communist party gathering in what looks very much
like a classroom from the "Marilyn Monroe" high school featured in that
surreal 1983 movie. It's a scene from "Cataracts", a B-movie produced
by Bruno Bonomo (played with gusto by Moretti regular, the Neapolitan
actor Silvio Orlando), responsible also for such "gems" as "Assassin
Mocassins", "Maciste against Freud" and "Susy the Misogynist". Bruno is
a bumbling, likable fool of a producer on the brink of professional and
marital failure (Margherita Buy, a delightful 40+ Italian actress
perhaps best known outside of Italy for the female lead in Ozpetek's Le
Fate Ignoranti, plays his estranged wife, Paola).
One night, while settling into the lonely, make-shift bed Bruno sets up for himself in his office in the first phase of his marital separation, he is deeply struck by a screenplay a young director, Teresa, has given him in the hope of funding her first full-length feature, Il Caimano... Absurdly, Bruno decides to produce it without having read the screenplay in its entirety and more importantly, before having realised that "the caiman" of the title was none other than Berlusconi! Though this may surprise some, as Moretti himself has famously said, this movie isn't really about Berlusconi. This said, the sequences in which Bruno imagines some scenes from Teresa's movie do indeed re-enact familiar episodes in the rise to wealth and power of Italy's richest citizen, most notably the court-room scenes (at one point the Berlusconi character is accused of "going into politics in order not to go to jail"). Not to mention some real footage including Berlusconi's "joke" regarding a German member of the European Parliament being "perfect" for the role of a Nazi guard in a film (as an Italian citizen re-watching such footage makes you want to be instantly swallowed by the depths of the earth, but it's actually worth staying on the surface just to study the look of stunned, mortified, murderous embarrassment spreading onto Fini, Italy's then-vice-PM's face as his "boss" cracks the infamous "joke"!). Nanni's (as opposed to Teresa's) Il Caimano is about the creative process of an artist. It's also a disillusioned comment on a certain kind of Italian left-wing citizen that has arisen from Berlusconi's Italy, whom Nanni's cameo character in the movie describes in less than flattering terms for their spinelessness and pettiness. Artistic integrity, the power of money (not just Berlusconi's, but what wealth stands for in the creative process), and last but not least, personal and artistic success and failure are also other important themes present in the movie. Some comments on this board also include homosexuality and gay parenting as a theme of the movie, but to me these two elements were included into the story in such a matter-of-fact way, that they were no more thematic than a Julia Roberts romantic comedy is about heterosexuality.
Moretti is in top form as far as visual humour is concerned: the sequence of a gigantic suit-case-full of Italian banknotes from the 1970s falling through the ceiling and crashing onto a desk in the middle of an office, amid the earnest question: "Where did all that money come from?!", is among the most memorable of the last five years that I've seen. There's much of the trademark Moretti photographic flair in Il Caimano: a child's feet treading a sea of gawdily colourful lego pieces strewn all over a floor as if he were a fakir walking on hot coals, a group of young men and women gently swaying to Rachid Taha's infectious North African rhythms while painting the walls of the film set representing key moments in Berlusconi's life, a nocturnal scene with a reconstruction of one of Christopher Columbus's caravels "sailing" down a Roman Avenue called Cristoforo Colombo (only a Roman would know this!) there's even a nod to Fellini in the sequences of a historic movie being filmed on a beach just outside Rome, reminiscent of Lo Sceicco Bianco both in humour and visuals Il Caimano boasts some noteworthy performances (though I found some of the minor players a bit wooden): Teresa is played by Jasmine Trinca, a bright young star of contemporary Italian cinema, first seen playing Nanni Moretti's daughter in La Stanza del Figlio and then, to great critical acclaim, the mentally disturbed Giorgia in La Meglio Gioventù (The Best of Youth). Michele Placido, a performer I have never considered a favourite, has a ball playing the comically repulsive actor who is first cast to play Berlusconi in Teresa's movie, and is very funny in the process. Polish star Jerzy Stuhr, known to international audiences for the lead roles in Kieslowski's Three Colours: White, and Dekalog 10, plays the rich Polish producer Sturavsky, a chorus-like character who provides the bemused "foreigner's" point of view on the absurd Italian situation (an essential Nanni ingredient in Aprile, for instance, it was a French journalist who covered that role )
For all its delightful humour Il Caimano is also (predictably) a bitter movie, and also a deeply allegorical one (see the final sequences for instance). On whether Berlusconi will win the next elections (meaning the ones that have just passed), Nanni Moretti's cameo character prophetically says: "He has already won" according to this movie and Nanni Moretti himself, the caiman's steady, corrosive action onto Italian culture which has been dumbed down beyond recognition, the damage he has inflicted on all aspects of life that'll take decades to mend, the opportunistic cynicism he has left as a legacy to his citizens, are battles that he has steadily been winning for the last 20 years.
Those familiar with Nanni Moretti know that, even when Moretti tackles political issues, he does so in such a personal, unusual way. This film is a vehement pamphlet against Berlusconi. Without going at lengths to describe the various reasons why Berlusconi is, to put it in the words of "The Economist", "unfit to lead Italy", Moretti shows the peculiar mixture of demagoguery and cynical opportunism that in his opinion are Berlusconi's hallmarks as both a businessman (before he entered politics) and a politician. Moretti seems to interpret Berlusconi as a symptom of the undoing of Italian society, its values, its way of life, an involution that he traces back to the way television (and in particular the kind of TV programmes that have been the staple of Berlusconi's televisions) has moulded Italian society and the set of tastes and values that in his opinion now prevail in among Italians. The director seems to believe that, for the moment, only a sort of personal resistance is possibile against such a disruption; the court magistrate, to some extent the main character and especially the young, inexperienced and yet talented and quietly tenacious young director, with her trust in the quality and importance of her ideas, are symbols of this resistance. A tough, difficult, dry, and yet thought-provoking film that deserves to be seen by both Italians and foreigners wanting to understand today's Italy better.
Shot with very sharp and uncommon intelligence, Il Caimano mixes surreal fancy together with raw and firm realism. A film that marvels for its equilibrium, that moves you and makes you think. A fearless, experimental, very personal work that potentially might be vastly criticized, far beyond the standards of the average Italian film production in terms of quality, sometimes also very funny, full of quotations by Tarantino or by earlier Italian b-movies, maybe stating that this kind of Italy itself looks like a very ugly b-movie. I'd like that Italian critics would acclaim this great movie, but I doubt it will be like this: most probably, it will be fully appreciated abroad. It might be Nanni Moretti's masterpiece. And Silvio Orlando's acting is great. Thank you, Nanni.
Dante Alighieri,in the thirteen century, spoke of Italy as if it were a woman. This is what he wrote: " Italia,not a provincial woman, rather a brothel". And yet so many beautiful masterpieces have been created in this shamble of a country. The problem lies in the sad awareness that over the last 50 years nothing special has been created whereas so much has been destroyed. Moretti talks of a generation, strongly influenced by Berlusconi, that has been brainwashed into stupidity, greatly via the media, owned by the above mentioned, that is not capable of seeing the reality for what it is, but only for how it is represented, by only a selection of TV channels. Any one who dares speaking differently from him or his subjects is quickly displaced and removed. Not much of a democracy, Italy has become.. No wonder Nanni Moretti doesn't seem too happy; who, in his right mind would? thank god he is only 50 and not 80. We will hopefully see more good things from him for a while.
In this movie Moretti tells only a part of Berlusconi's story but it's enough to frighten the audience. Very simple, clear, but so strong. The grand final with Moretti playing Berlusconi is freezing, because the director can be cynical and cruel more than the president, with his good fellow smile. The prime minister changed people's mind so much that they can throw a molotov bottle against a judge, imitating the stereotype of the violent communist described by Berlusconi in his propaganda. Awesome the character of Pulici (M. Placido), typical Italian, and the Silvio Orlando's act, but I didn't like Jasmine Trinca. To me is one of the best movies of Moretti.
A movie on (or against) Berlusconi, the media tycoon which is presently also prime minister of Italy? This is the "leit motive" in these days, at two weeks distance from the general elections. And the movie was released just yesterday... Is the movie a political propaganda one? Nanni Moretti in an interview broadcast on the same date asserts that he had no intention to make politics. Maybe! Anyhow the scene of Berlusconi at the European Congress in Brussels when he shouted "kapò" to a German delegate and refused to excuse himself or the sequence at the Criminal Court of Milano during a process for mafia connections speak for themselves. Apart from politics, the movie is on the tradition of the Moretti ones, "Caro Diario" and "La Stanza del Figlio" in particular and it is worth to be seen.
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
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.
Much touted as Moretti's 'Berlusconi' movie, (and it does end, somewhat
chillingly, on the trial when the 'film-within-the-film' has taken over
completely), "Il Caimano" is a sweeter, darker, more personal film than
the Berlusconi tag might suggest. Indeed the infamous PM isn't really a
character at all, or rather that is all he is, a character in a film
script. Instead, it's all about Bruno, a director of very cheesy
exploitation pictures who hasn't had a hit in years and whose marriage
has also gone down the tubes who suddenly finds himself energized again
when a radical young lesbian presents him with a script which turns out
to be a searing indictment of Berlusconi, (well, maybe not that
searing). The film is about Bruno's efforts to get the bloody thing
made in a conservative Italian film industry scared of its own shadow.
It's at its best in the domestic scenes and not in the film-making parodies, (which already have been done to death), and Moretti shows a real empathy for all concerned. Bruno, in particular, is beautifully played by Silvio Orlando as a basically sad, fat, unattractive little man bemoaning his lot yet finding a kind of redemption by making the one 'serious' film of his career. When finally he is able to finance a punchy film centering on the end of the trial the film-within-the-film shifts up a gear leaving us in no doubt where Moretti's sympathies lie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nanni Moretti, the director of "Il Caimano", is one of the most
important directors working in the Italian cinema today. We have
admired his previous work a lot and it was a complete surprise when
this movie showed up on cable recently. The film owes much of its
success to Silvio Orlando, an actor who has worked with Mr. Moretti
before and is, without a doubt, one of the most accomplished actor on
the scene today, as he has demonstrated in past collaboration with Mr.
"Il Caimano" is a fine film in which one can see the talented Mr. Moretti doing impressive work. It is in a way, a tribute to the Italian cinema, past, and present and clearly demonstrates the quality behind the people that were involved in the project.
The film starts with a retrospective of the work of Bruno Bonomo, a producer of exploitation films. As he is leaving the auditorium, a young woman, holding a child, approaches him with the manuscript of a film she has written. Bruno's own life is unraveling at this point; he and his wife Paola are going through a nasty divorce. It's clear Bruno loves her and he adores his young boys.
Bruno, after reading the manuscript, decides to sell the idea for a feature film and starts assembling a production team to work on it. What starts as a product of love, ends up in being a disaster production, where everything seems to fall apart. Only at the end, when he decides to begin shooting the movie, the mood changes and we are taken to a quite different film being made with political undertones based on recent events in Italy.
Silvio Orlando is amazing as Bruno. He gives an excellent performance as the troubled producer whose life has unraveled against his best wishes. Mr. Orlando is the best excuse to watch the movie. Margherita Buy is seen in the double role of Paola, the estranged wife, and the heroine of Bruno's own action movies. They are joined by a wonderful cast, and even Mr. Moretti, who appears in the last segment of the film.
This film which hasn't been shown commercially in this country, as far as we are concerned, is worth a look because of the winning team of the director and the leading man.
I've seen Il caimano with a group of spinsters politically dogged. It was my first Nanni Moretti film, and I fell in love with him and his cinema. Il caimano is a marvellous film, talking about a family and a dream in the Berlusconi era. Bruno Bonomo is a producer of B-movies. He's stubborn and dreamer, and one night he receives a screenplay from a girl during a film festival. This girl wants at all costs realize a film about Berlusconi, called Il caimano. Bruno doesn't understand the main character is just Berlusconi, and so he decides to please the girl preparing this film. All happens while the Bonomo family falls to pieces. Bruno Bonomo is played by Silvio Orlando, an actor present in a lot of Moretti's films, who gives a splendid performance. His wife Paola is played by Margherita Buy, the best contemporary Italian actress according to me (I'd drool for seeing her in the whole B-movie at the beginning, Cataratte), and the young director, Teresa, is played by Jasmine Trinca, a nice and quite good promise of Italian cinema, together with Silvio Muccino, Cristiana Capotondi and Riccardo Scamarcio. To complete the cast, there are Michele Placido, Jerzy Stuhr, Anna Bonaiuto, a lot of directors and he, Nanni Moretti. A marvellous film: who wants to study the Berlusconian Italy, well, he (or she) has to watch it.
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