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‘Caiman’ chomps Italo B.O.

Anti-Berlusconi pic 'Caiman' release just before election

Helmer Nanni Moretti’s anti-Silvio Berlusconi pic “Il caimano” (The Caiman) debuted with a bite in Italy, grossing E2 million ($2.4 million) in its first weekend on 370 screens. That’s the helmer’s best local opening ever.

Released just over two weeks before national elections, the controversial pic — named after a South American alligator used by leftists as a nickname for the Italian prime minister — scored the weekend’s highest per-screen average, preceded by plenty of front-page press.

By comparison, Moretti’s “The Son’s Room” opened to $600,000 on 68 copies in 2001, before going on to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Moretti’s Sacher shingle, which co-produced “The Caiman” with Gaul’s Bac Films, released the pic via its Sacher Distribuzione, in collaboration with Mikado.

Combining scathing satire and intimate drama, “The Caiman” revolves around a down-and-out B-movie producer, played by Silvio Orlando (“The Son’s Room”), who tries to make a pic about Berlusconi while breaking up with his wife.

Debate has been raging over whether the film’s pre-election release could affect the Italo vote, which sees Berlusconi trailing by a few points in opinion polls. Moretti said that is not his objective.

Reviews from Italian critics for “The Caiman” have been mostly positive.