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November 15, 2014

Starz Denver Film Festival 2014 - Viva la Liberta


Roberto Ando - 2013
Distrib Films

I don't know how familiar Roberto Ando is with Being There, either the novel or the film, or if Toni Servillo, playing two dissimilar twin brothers was in any way inspired by Peter Sellers, but there are some moments where the two films share a similar spirit. Ando's film, taken from his own novel, is about a politician, Enrico, running for national office, last in the polls, disappearing from Rome. The politician's aide chances upon the twin brother, Giovanni, who unlike Enrico, is unguarded about what he says to anyone. Talked into pretending to be the politician, a connection is made with the public, vaulting the pretend Enrico as the projected winner.

The similarity to Being There is with Enrico, mentioned a couple of times as being a "madman", being, if not an idiot savant, one whose frankness of speech and various literary references, energizes his political party, as well as the crowds. There is also Servillo's ability to portray two different men in such a way that initially with subtle facial expressions, the brothers are individually identifiable.

Servillo's real performance is with his legs. At one point, Giovanni is followed by the aide, Andrea. Giovanni walks in such a way as to always block Andrea, pointing his feet in different directions. Later, when impersonating Enrico, Andrea spies on Giovanni, barefoot, dancing with a female politician whom he was presumably set to meet for a serious discussion. Giovanni surprises Andrea by taking him to a dance studio where he demonstrates the ability to rock out with the litheness of a much younger man. Where Viva la Liberta especially shines is in Toni Servillo's fancy footwork.

Viva la Liberta won two David di Donatello Awards last year, the Italian equivalent to the Oscars. Ando, with Angelo Pasquini, won for Best Screenplay. Valerio Mastandrea won Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the often harried aide, Andrea, and ironically also won that year for Best Actor on another film, beating out the deservedly nominated Servillo.

Ando discussed some of his influences in making Viva la Liberta in this interview.

That details about Italian politics might not be known should not in any way dissuade potential viewers, as Servillo's performance is what makes this film worth seeing. Especially as Servillo is better known in the U.S. for the more serious The Great Beauty and Dormant Beauty, his performance comes as something of a delightful surprise.

Posted by peter at November 15, 2014 07:01 AM