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THE CAIMAN

Director: NANNI MORETTI

ITALY-FRANCE| 2006. SUBTITLED. COLOUR. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 112 MIN.


Before you ask, a caiman is a sort of South American alligator, used, in this instance, as Nanni Moretti’s made-up nickname for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi’s doubtless been called a lot worse, but this is the first major feature film to square up to the business magnate who rose from much-investigated origins to use his domination of the Italian media as a springboard for two terms in office. As you’d expect from the maker of ‘Dear Diary’ and ‘April’, Moretti’s attack is far from conventional, since the central character is actually a washed-up B-movie producer (amiable Silvio Orlando) in the process of splitting from his wife and family when he’s given an anti-Berlusconi script by a fearless young writer-director and sets about raising the finance without really knowing what he’s in for.

Berlusconi’s actually threaded through the film in many guises—imagined as the producer reads the screenplay, played by non-lookalike Michele Placido in test footage, and captured in archive material of the toe-curling moment from the European parliament when he put down a rival with a crass gag about concentration camps. Moretti himself is a more marginal screen presence on this occasion, since we initially see him turning down the role of Berlusconi in the film-within-the-film. But his investment is obvious both in the warmth and quizzical comedy of the domestic asides and the blazing conviction of the political message: how could we let this happen? A huge hit in Italy, it was released three weeks before last year’s elections in which Berlusconi was ousted from power.—Trevor Johnston.

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