You need know nothing about Italian politics to completely enjoy the fantastical, Fellini-fied, tragi-comic, biographical fun-for-all Il Divo. The subject of this fact-based portrait is seven-time Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, one of those real-life characters who make politics so surreal a human endeavor. Now at the age of 90 and currently wearing the title Life Senator, Andreotti has survived accusations of betrayal and corruption (not to mention charges that he ordered political assassinations) and a hammering series of criminal trials, while all around him, his associates and enemies alike have sunk in his mucky wake.
The great actor and stage director Toni Servillo, a national star who also appeared as a toxic-waste mogul in this year's other Italian cinematic gem, Gomorrah, adds a touch of sepulchral Nixonian pathos to his mesmerizing portrayal of Andreotti in the early 1990s. With ears curled like pasta shells and arms stiff at his sides, Servillo depicts this blockish, physically constricted man, tormented by headaches, as a nightcrawling creature comforted by precise routines. The performance is perfect for the hyperstylized scene-setting tastes of filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino (The Family Friend), who approaches this inscrutable power broker's story as a Shakespearean drama, a surrealistic circus, and a uniquely Italian phenomenon all in one. A–