In recent years Italian cinema has made something of a return.
Following some fairly fallow years we have seen the likes of "Il Divo", "In The Name of Love", "Mid-August Lunch", "Gomorra", "The Girl by the Lake" and the soon to be released "Vincere" all of which would be in any film fans favourites list. Three of those films have one thing in common and that is central performances by Tony Servillo who also plays lead in this 2004 mafia flick.
Servillo is one of the best actors in the world right now. While much is made of the likes of Clooney, Bridges, Crowe and Bale in Empire magazine who work themselves into a lather over any film that features any Hollywood A-lister, the fact is that not one of those men has the ability to match the performances of Servillo in "Il Divo", "Gomorra", "Girl by the Lake" or "The Consequences of Love". He is, quite simply, head and shoulders above his American peers and when you watch him it is difficult not to get angry about the fact that he will never receive the sort of attention that they do.
In Paulo Sorrentino's "The Consequences of Love" Servillo plays Titta di Girolamo a quiet, to the point of being mute, man who lives in an exclusive Swiss hotel. He spends his days sitting in the lounge, watching, smoking, listening and obsessing over barmaid Sofia. Each Wednesday at 10 am he takes heroin. Once or twice a week he takes delivery of a suitcase filled with money which he takes to a bank and has the staff count by hand, never by machine. All of this he does without saying any more than he has to and with precision that is matched in his clothes.
This quiet, deliberate and precise world is thrown out of sync by two events; first Titta is visited by two men in his hotel room. They are mafia and they have come to undertake a hit. While sleeping in Tittas hotel room they witness the delivery of one of the suitcases filled with money and once the hit is complete they return to steal the money. This is not good news for Titta as we learn that he too is in the employ of the mafia thanks to an investment he made on their behalf ten years ago which saw them lose a lot of money. To avoid the usual fate that befalls people who lose the mafia money he has been placed in the hotel to act as their delivery boy, Now he must convince the mob that he has not betrayed them...not an easy task as the two thieves are cousins of one of the bosses.
The second event that disturbs Tittas world is his engagement with Sofia the barmaid. He confides in her. Reveals who he is and what he has become. Having unburdened himself Titta is suddenly aware that he has been robbed too. Robbed of his life. This leads to his making a very important decision which has consequences that prove fatal.
Despite saying little Servillo is utterly convincing as the former investment banker turned mafia delivery boy. He is immaculate in his dress, his movement and his delivery. He is quietly menacing at times and at others he is completely vulnerable. It really is a performance of many layers...which makes me sound like the sort of pretentious prat who wants to talk about films in a way that makes them inaccessible to anyone else but it's the only way I can describe this performance.
The film itself is ultra-stylised. At times it looks like a very expensive car advert which isn't a bad thing despite what you are thinking. It has the appearance of being all surface and no substance but that "cool" exterior is only that, an exterior, and it is cracked by the relationship between Titta and Sofia (played brilliantly by Olivia Magnani) which allows us into the heart of Titta. It is that relationship that allows us to get inside Titta and to understand why he needs to surround himself with this routine, this precision and this almost glacial iciness.
Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has now created two of the past decades best films and if the world were fairer he would be talked about in the same glowing terms reserved for directors working in the English speaking world. I know it's becoming repetitive but this ghettoisation of cinema simply serves to rob the audience of seeing films that are more worthy of their time and money than some of the horrors cluttering up the mulitplexes.
You should treat yourself and go out and buy this film. It is available on amazon for five pounds and for the same price in HMV. Five pounds. Just five pounds. That's less than a cinema ticket to watch "Hot Tub Time Machine" and I can't believe that you won't get more out of this than that. If you are a reader of this blog who knows me I'll lend you my copy. Do it. Do it today,