The sheer volume of material on scandal-plagued Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi appears to trip up “Silvio Forever,” an ironically styled “autobiography” that serves up far more than it can chew and digest. Vet directors Roberto Faenza and Filiappo Macelloni, collaborating with a pair of noted journalists, rely exclusively on available footage and Berlusconi’s own words while coursing through his auto-mythification, yet despite this juicy stuff, the docu’s lack of emphasis and lackluster editing weaken impact. Knowledge of major Italo political players is practically required, hampering chances for offshore screenings.
That boutique distrib Lucky Red was able to bow “Silvio Forever” on 108 local screens is an impressive achievement considering Berlusconi’s control, through Medusa, of major distribution outlets, not to mention a lawsuit filed against the producers, two days before release, by a journalist claiming unauthorized use of an interview she did with the PM’s mother. Publicizing such a pic in a country where the media is largely controlled by Berlusconi and his partners has been problematic, which might explain unimpressive opening weekend receipts of only $256,460.
Another possibility is that the Italian public, from all points of the political spectrum, is simply tired of looking at its leader in the wake of neverending stories involving bribery, sex with minors, wild “bunga bunga” parties, purported Mafia connections, plastic surgery, etc. That he still has a core of unswervingly faithful followers speaks to something in the Italian psyche that neither this docu nor others (such as “Videocracy” and “Viva Zapatero”) even begin to address. Italy’s misfortune, however, is a bonanza for filmmakers, ensuring that the self-described “most accused man in the universe and in history” will remain cinema fodder for years to come.
Thesp/comic Neri Marcore voices Berlusconi’s own words in retracing his life from modest beginnings (“humble” isn’t a word one can use, especially after seeing the tasteless mausoleum he’s had built) to success as a cruise-ship crooner, businessman and twice-elected prime minister. If there’s one thread that runs through his story, it’s his constant demonization of the left, which he paints as the greatest threat to civilization since the Black Death and Attila the Hun combined.
Faenza and Macelloni superficially organize the material into chapters, but they’re unable to keep such a messy life within thematic boundaries. They touch on Berlusconi’s innumerable court cases, the whiff of mob ties, the shrugged-off gaffes and his, um, colorful private life, yet by not focusing on any of them, the film fails to build a hard-hitting case; it’s like reading a 20-page paper containing all bullet points and no analysis.
Part of this is deliberate; the helmers chose to make a pseudo-autobiography (though it has nothing in common with the devastating “Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu”) rather than an investigative expose. But to galvanize their audience, presumably composed of politically minded viewers, they need a rhythm that can stir emotions rather than the montage equivalent of a laundry list. Weak editing and poor sound suggest a rush through post-production.