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Internee With Mussolini

MOVIE REVIEW
Vincere (2009)

028302
Festival de Cannes

Marco Bellocchio has tackled some of Italy’s most delicate historical and religious subjects with an inspired touch of surrealism. “Good Morning, Night,” Mr. Bellocchio’s treatment of the Red Brigade’s 1978 kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, took that singular event and expanded it into a broader allegory of a turbulent chapter in Italian history. Similarly, “Vincere” extrapolates Benito Mussolini’s ill-fated first marriage into a cautionary tale about the price of absolute power.

Mussolini, the fascist former Italian prime minister, nearly had his reputation rehabilitated by “My Father, il Duce,” the 2004 memoir of his son, the late jazz musician Romano Mussolini. But in 2005, Italian state broadcaster RAI aired “Mussolini’s Secret,” a documentary by Fabrizio Laurenti and Gianfranco Norelli that inspired “Vincere.” Before his ascension to power, Mussolini (Filippo Timi) married Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and fathered Benito Albino (Fabrizio Costella). Dalser sold all of her possessions to fund Mussolini’s newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia. But Mussolini apparently had a change of heart during WWI, marrying Rachele and completely disavowing his first marriage and first born. When Dalser refused to be denied, Mussolini banished her to an insane asylum and their son to boarding school.

Here, Mr. Bellocchio trades his usual surrealist strokes for the aesthetics of newsreels and agitprop. Compared to the filmmaker’s generally intimate fare, “Vincere” has the aura of an ambitious epic. But Mr. Timi’s Mussolini drops out of the picture halfway through and is supplanted by the real deal from archival footage. While Dalser’s story makes for a potent historical parable, at times it seems like little more than a garden-variety drama about an obsessive woman’s scorn. It’s not until the very end that the film puts things back into perspective with its depiction of the crumbling of fascism.

VINCERE

Opens on March 19, 2010 in New York and on May 14, 2010 in Britain.

Directed by Marco Bellocchio; written by Mr. Bellocchio and Daniela Ceselli, based on a story idea by Mr. Bellocchio; director of photography, Daniele Ciprì; edited by Francesca Calvelli; music by Carlo Crivelli; production designer, Marco Dentici; costumes by Sergio Ballo; produced by Mario Gianani; released by IFC Films (United States) and Artificial Eye (Britain). In Italian, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes. This film is not rated by M.P.A.A. and rated 15 by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Ida Dalser), Filippo Timi (Benito Mussolini), Fausto Russo Alesi (Riccardo Paicher), Michela Cescon (Rachele Mussolini), Pier Giorgio Bellocchio (Pietro Fedele), Fabrizio Costella (the young Benito) and Corrado Invernizzi (Dr. Cappelletti).

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