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Marco Bellocchio's Dark View of Mussolini's Private Life
Marco Bellocchio directed and wrote (with Daniela Ceselli) this very dark version of the private life of Benito Mussolini, a portion of his life that centered on his mistress and the mother of his son, one Ida Dalser. Though the film never really reveals whether Ida Dasler and Mussolini were married (Mussolini already had a wife and child when he me the devastatingly beautiful and erotic Ida) but that simply doesn't seem to matter while watching this artistic triumph of a film. What the director does manage to portray is the life and times of Italy before, during, and after WW I, a time during which Mussolini began his influence as a socialist and ultimately founded Italian Fascism, becoming the Fascist dictator of Italy. The many permutations of the concepts of monarchism and socialism and eventually Fascism are delineated by the film, if at times as shadowy in their explanation as is the director's love of dark in lighting the screen during almost all of the action. Bellocchio uses black and white film clips throughout his film giving it a somewhat documentary flair, but the performances by the actors make this film very much a visceral drama and not a dry rehash of history.
Filippo Timi gives a gripping performance as both Mussolini the ardent and handsome lover and politician whose life is always controlled by the term 'Vincere' ('Win'). Aptly, when the bulky monster Mussolini rises out of the socialism into fascism and the war the part of Mussolini is 'played' by the film clips of the real person. But as the film draws toward the end of his life, Timi once again enters the film in the role of his son Benito Albino Mussolini, a lad stricken with insanity and confined to a sanitarium. As Mussolini's mistress (aka 'wife' by her accounts) Ida Dalser, Giovanna Mezzogiorno offers one of the strongest cinematic portrayals of an important woman of history. She is simply riveting - erotic when the romance begins, faithful even when she discovers Mussolini has a wife, and uncontrollably fierce as she is confined by the government (with Mussolini's approval) to an insane asylum. This is one of those performances that will live in memory long after this film is seen and hopefully will garner awards when the Oscar season comes round.
In all this is a beautifully wrought, intelligent, beautifully acted, occasionally confusing melodrama that sheds light on the man Mussolini, his rise to power, and the women who came under his influence. Recommended.
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