Thursday, May 7, 2009

Viva L’Italia Part 2

Of the many things that mystify me about the Italians, there is this… How they manage to do such spectacularly ruthless things and survive, not just unscathed, but more beloved than ever. Whether it’s dumping bullet-riddled politicians in the trunks of cars (Aldo Moro), kneecapping, kidnapping, crimes of passion, rampant corruption, we shrug it off, no, we laugh it off, with the thought: “Ah! But of course, they’re Italians.” As if this, somehow, diminishes or excuses the horror of it all. 

A case in point? The fantastically stylized, often hilarious, picture of post-war Italian politics as seen in Paolo Sorrentino’s new masterpiece, Il Divo. (the God) Featuring the notorious Guilio Andreotti (brilliantly imagined by the actor, Toni Servillo), seven times Prime Minister, leader of the Christian Democratic Party, and Senator for Life, I sat in my seat at the theater on Sunday, feeling like a rubbernecker at the scene of some grotesquely gory car crash. Except the car was the Italian government as driven by this Madoff like monster, a sinner so utterly inanimate, so stiff, still, and sinister, the only signs of life and/or emotion are the moments when he pinches the thin bit of flesh above his nostrils. As the corpses pile up around him, journalists, lawyers, Masons, mobsters, politicians, this man continues to take his mincing steps through the corridors of power, armed with nothing more than a mordant wit and a pocketful of aspirin for his migraines. 

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the cast of characters or the details behind the scandals, the message is as clear as the plate glass window through which yet another victim plunges to his untimely demise. There is no Italy (nor has there ever been an Italy) without soul shriveling corruption and complicity. Not anymore than there is an Italy without its ruins, magnificent art, palaces, and great pasta. What makes this movie so fabulously unAmerican and unmistakeably Italian is the fact you leave the theater, laughing and wishing you were there. Yes, wishing you were there. 

Speaking of which. I was there. Or almost. Another Roman holiday up in Harlem on Saturday. Unexpected sunshine, small children, barbecue, “exclamatory hands” and lots of wine. My daughter got her first ride home on the back of a 1200 CC  motorcycle. Watching her wrap her arms around the waist of this drop dead handsome Italian man and roar off down the driveway,  I felt just the tiniest shiver of envy. And fear. Not the kind of fear that comes from thoughts of a crash (I knew how scrupulously cautious this man would be) but the fear that comes when you realize that your child is no longer a child. At least, not in the eyes of men. 

Posted by Brenda in 18:30:25 | Permalink | Comments (4)