102 minutes| Italy-France| 2011| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema

After his demolition job on Berlusconi in The Caiman, Italian humourist Nanni Moretti’s take on the papal succession is perhaps surprisingly gentle and affectionate, yet what it has to say about the church is trenchant indeed. As we see from the opening scenes, the prospect of taking on Catholicism’s highest honour is so daunting that those in contention are praying they don’t get the job. The victor is France’s Cardinal Melville, and as played by the venerable Michel Piccoli, he is wise, compassionate and just the man for the post – except he swiftly throws a wobbly and the church can’t make the official announcement. Enter Moretti himself as a quizzical (and faithless) shrink, and the satirical stakes are raised.

Underpinned by reverence for the Vatican’s traditions, the film brings sly wit to its unfolding nightmare scenario, yet its ultimate assessment that the papacy is inherently unlikely to get the reformer the institution badly needs proves both respectful and forthright. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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