Ripped from Italy’s headlines, “Loro,” written (with Umberto Contarello) and directed by exceptionally talented Paolo Sorrentino, is an inspired-by-reality drama trying to capture the essence of the political world of the ever-controversial former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. It is a sprawling, free-wheeling story spanning assorted locations and packed with a huge cast of characters, enticing women, and exposed corruption. Above all, there is a dynamic performance as Berlusconi by the superb actor Toni Servillo.

Sorrentino has been known for such impressive films as “The Great Beauty,” and here he pulls out all the stops in his excursion into the social climbing, ambitions and greed that have fueled the political and social scene in modern Italy. How much is true and how much is imagined can be left to those closer to Italian politics and court cases.

There is another top performance by Riccardo Scamarcio as Sergio, a schemer who runs an escort service catering to the rich and powerful. In his quest for money and influence, he aims to impress Berlusconi with his smarts and ability to provide women, but he underestimates whom he is up against. Berlusconi is portrayed as a master manipulator with contempt for underlings.

Politically discredited and subjected to a raft of legal entanglements, the very rich Berlusconi is depicted as aiming to regain power by whatever means necessary, including knowing the weaknesses of those he needs to bribe. Servillo gives a larger than life performance in the role, adding to his stature demonstrated by his previous fine work in “The Great Beauty” and “Il Divo.” Elena Sofia Ricci excels as Berlusconi’s finally fed-up wife.

I suppose “Loro” comes under the category of political satire. But it is much more than that. The satire reveals disturbing truths, and it also is a tribute to expansive, eye-popping cinema, in a effect something of a “La Dolce Vita” for our era.

Special credit is due cinematographer Luca Bigazzi for the superb job done in bringing to life visually so many key elements that add to the overall impact. Also credit Stefania Cella’s lavish production design.

There are many memorable scenes. My favorite was a confrontation between Berlusconi and a young woman whom he approaches sexually by dangling the prospect of what he can do for her. She counters with the film’s rare example of honesty and decency by mocking his age and giving him a firm rejection. An IFC Films release. Reviewed September 20, 2019.

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