Bloggers thrash, Vatican stoic on pope fiction film

Italo auteur Nanni Moretti, who is back on the Croisette this year with “Habemum Papam,” about a panicked newly elected Pope, is very relaxed about Vatican reactions to his pic.

“Some people are saying: ‘This movie does not depict the real church,’ ” he says. “And I can answer, toungue in cheek: ‘That is not a criticism; you are thanking me. You must be thanking me for not depicting the real Church.’ “

Some folks in Italian Catholic circles have been hostile to “Papam” — traditionalist Catholic blog Pontifex has sued Moretti for ‘offending the Pontiff’s decorum.’

That said, the film, which has comic overtones, has not caused that much Vatican ire.

“The extreme reactions have been very minor, and don’t really represent the sensibility of the Catholic world,” he says.

Playing the perturbed pope is beloved Gallic thesp Michel Piccoli, 85, who, as Moretti puts it, “has been an integral part of the best European cinema.”

That didn’t prevent Moretti from asking him to do a screen test “with the excuse that I was doing it because he had to act in Italian.”

During the shoot, Piccoli “managed, with great simplicity, to put himself on the same wavelength as the other actors who were such a disparate bunch. That was really a great lesson,” Moretti recalls. Of course one of the others in the cast was Moretti himself, who plays the Pope’s psychoanalyst.

The lavish ($11 million) pic, comprising a meticulous reconstruction of a Papal conclave and a Sistine Chapel interior, was much more complex from a production standpoint than Moretti’s 2001 Palme d’Or winner “The Son’s Room.” But making that bereavement drama “was a bit tougher, both to shoot and to act.”

Produced by Domenico Procacci, “Papam” has been doing boffo biz, pulling $6.8 million since its release three weeks ago.

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