Mussolini still fascinates Italian auds

ROME — Two Italian documentaries about Benito Mussolini, both unspooling at the Turin Film Festival, are creating a stir in Italy due to some blatant analogies with a certain contempo leader that they serve up.

Both docs use footage unearthed in the archives of Istituto Luce, which produced them. “Mussolini’s Body,” by Fabrizio Laurenti, is “a voyage into the obsession Italians have with their leaders’ bodies,” says Laurenti.

Laurenti’s doc delves into Mussolini’s corporeal charisma (when Il Duce was in power he liked to give speeches bare-chested) and now, as Mussolini fans still flock to his tomb, in numbers estimated to be between 80,000 and 100,000 a year.

Silvio Berlusconi’s manic attention to his physical appearance, his hair transplant, plastic surgery and frequent use of pancake makeup are all known facts — not to mention his monumental family tomb.

The other hot-button Mussolini doc is “The Boss’ Smile” by Marco Bechis (“Garage Olimpo”), about Mussolini’s charisma and media savvy.

“I didn’t want to create direct links with the present,” Bechis said at the Turin presser. “But the continuity between that past and our present just became screamingly evident.”

The analogies are proving uncomfortable. “We (Italians) think we are over fascism; that it could not happen again. But actually that’s not true,” says Laurenti.

“Unlike Germany, which had to deal with its guilt, Italy never matured. So when a salesman came along armed with optimism and a smile — exactly like Mussolini — and also some TV stations, Italians fell for him because they are still captive to this charismatic fascination with their leaders,” he adds.

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