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Ride with The Devil: Il Divo

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Ride with The Devil: Il Divo

Il Divo, Paolo Sorrentino’s 2008 Cannes Jury Prize-winning study of Italy’s “Life Senator” Giulio Andreotti (who shares his titular nickname with Julius Caesar) is an art-house crowd popcorn flick. Dense with Byzantine political information—blink and you’ll miss a crucial subtitle—the film should have been a miniseries, but nevertheless is steeped in the country’s populist operatic tradition, and moves with the speed (not to mention slo-mo action sequences) of a Luc Besson film. And like that high-flying Frenchman’s movies, Il Divo has the feeling of being completely choreographed. It’s a ballet on steroids, downright militaristic in its precision. Between the lush production design and sweeping camerawork, the overwhelming opera score alternating with roaring rock and roll (and even a silly tune from 80s pop-tart Trio), you forget you’re watching the story of a leader whose ruthless administration makes Bush & Co. look like Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. (Though all those Bush conspiracy theories do find their counterpart in Italy’s “strategy of tension,” which holds that the government causes chaos to create fear and maintain power—in this case for decades. In lieu of Skull and Bones there’s the secret society of the P2 lodge, of which Silvio Berlusconi, naturally, was a member.)

This puts Il Divo at odds with that other recent study of Italian systemic corruption, Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah. Whereas Gomorrah features the gritty realism of wannabe gangstas reciting lines from Scarface, Il Divo absorbs the slick Hollywood viewpoint itself, spewing it back out in highly stylized imagery. Andreotti’s inner circle is first presented in Reservoir Dogs fashion, with aliases like “The Shark” and “His Holiness” flashing onscreen under their names as they fill the frame. A sequence crosscuts between a horse race and a vicious murder a la The Godfather. Goodfellas comes to mind after The Shark, who resembles Tony Soprano, quits Andreotti’s Christian Democratic faction, leaving the rest to ponder his Judas-like behavior while dining Last Supper-style by a pool. For all its heavy exposition Il Divo is less journalistic than Gomorrah. Indeed, it’s great surface entertainment that doesn’t dig deep; an Italian film for those Hollywood-worshiping Italian youth in Gomorrah.

But then, comparing Sorrentino’s Steadicam biopic to Garrone’s handheld epic is probably as ridiculous as comparing Spielberg to Soderbergh. Il Divo is, in fact, a damn fun ride, a go-go film that truly moves. Even before a dry courtroom scene where Andreotti is finally about to be tried, a sequence of reporters loading video cameras is edited like a chorus line, as security checks every nook and cranny for bombs, and the paparazzi’s bulbs flash like gunfire in the defendant’s face. Sorrentino’s movie is made all the more engaging by Toni Servillo (who also showed his suavely corrupt side in Gomorrah), as the highly uncharismatic, hunchbacked leader with the perfect comic timing. When a doctor suggests the premier try playing sports instead of anxiously pacing, Andreotti wryly replies, “All my sporty friends are dead.”

Seeming like a stone-faced, robotic, nearly autistic version of Kissinger, Servillo’s Il Divo commands the screen even when sharing it with a kiss-ass strategist and budget minister (alias “Minister”) played by the Larry David look-a-like Carlo Buccirosso, and Flavio Bucci’s Dali-resembling “right arm” (alias “Lemon”) who gives the ruler a watch as a gift. Interestingly, it becomes nearly irrelevant that a seven-time prime minister whose opponents just happen to die on a regular basis remains an enigma throughout Sorrentino’s film. Andreotti, who is called an “extraterrestrial” by a journalist in Il Divo, and even today at 90 remains evasive and unapologetic, is a mystery the director wisely chooses not to unravel. Why bother when the mystery in itself is so captivating?

There’s one fantastically surreal scene that takes place during a vicious rainstorm. (It’s every bit as bizarrely dreamlike as the imagined, rapid-fire, seated confession Andreotti later delivers to the camera that finishes with a theatrical lights out.) Il Divo’s bodyguards struggle one by one, and then hilariously all together, to open a stuck backseat door as torrents of water strike like bullets. Inside sits the premier safe and dry, not lifting a finger to let himself out. He’s not so much stoic in the face of the mayhem all around, but terrifyingly, purposefully unaware.

Brooklyn-based writer Lauren Wissot is the publisher of the blog Beyond the Green Door, the author of the memoir Under My Master’s Wings, and a contributor to The Reeler.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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