May 22, 2006

Berlusconi satire brings more politics to Cannes

By Kerstin Gehmlich

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Italian director Nanni Moretti
brought his cinematic swipe at former Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi to the Cannes film festival on Monday, bringing yet
more politics to the competition's screens.

Already released in Italy just two weeks before the recent
election, "The Caiman" is one of 20 films vying for the coveted
"Palme d'Or" at the world's biggest film festival.

The political theme is a neat fit with other movies in
competition, including Ken Loach's "The Wind That Shakes the
Barley" about Ireland's struggle for independence, and Richard
Linklater's "Fast Food Nation" about big U.S. restaurant

Moretti, whose film "The Son's Room" won the Palme D'Or in
Cannes in 2001, said that media tycoon-turned-politician
Berlusconi's narrow defeat in the election by centre-left
leader Romano Prodi did not mean Italy had changed overnight.

"The film remains highly topical ... The problem of
Italians is that we have grown accustomed to things ... that
are unacceptable in a democracy," he told reporters.

"In Italy, on the left and on the right, everyone seems to
find it normal that a politician can be in government and have
all these TV channels at the same time," he said, speaking
through an interpreter.

"The problems are there. They are very real and they remain
intact. It's not a handful of votes that will change that."

Moretti added that his bitter-sweet comedy, about an
out-of-luck film producer, Bruno (Silvio Orlando), who is
rejuvenated when presented with a new script, had not
contributed to Berlusconi's poll defeat.


On reading the script of "The Caiman" -- a crocodile-like
reptile, and the nickname given to Berlusconi by the left-wing
press -- Bruno first takes the film to be an action thriller.

He crashes into another car when its writer Teresa points
out that in fact it focuses on Berlusconi's career -- from the
Milan property boom of the 1960s when he built housing estates
to his move into television and political life.

Bruno and Teresa watch excerpts of controversial speeches
given by the real Berlusconi, including his likening a German
lawmaker to a Nazi concentration camp guard at the start of the
last Italian presidency of the European Union in 2003.

"Abroad they don't understand how a guy like this has
paralyzed Italy for 12 years," Teresa says in the film.

As Teresa and Bruno struggle to find someone to play
Berlusconi, the tycoon is incarnated in three different
characters, reflecting the way he is perceived by Bruno who
once voted for Berlusconi himself.

Moretti also takes a shot at the left in his film when a
left-wing actor, played by himself, refuses the role of
Berlusconi, saying it would be "what the left wants to hear."

"The left has very often underestimated the dangerous
aspect of (Berlusconi's) personality, insisting on its
folkloristic aspects," Moretti told the news conference. "That
aspect didn't interest me and I wanted to show a different

When the film came out in Italy, Berlusconi said he would
not go to see it. Prodi was non-committal.