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I don’t even want to speculate about what kind of films TAC readers prefer, but I would bet that they are not very partial to most of what passes for Hollywood hits. I received three movies for Christmas that I have only now been able to watch, all of which I would highly recommend. They are all in Italian with subtitles and all three were shown in the US, but only on the art house circuit. The first is Gomorrah, the title a play on words because it is about the Neapolitan crime group Camorra. The film consists of five vaguely connect stories that feature life in the criminal underworld of Naples. The dialect is so heavy that I could only understand the Italian when it was being spoken by a Chinese character. The film pulls no punches and its depiction of life in the lower class Neapolitan housing estates is both vivid and visually stunning, to put it mildly.

The second film was Il Divo about seven-times Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti, who is now 92 years old. Andreotti had a number of nicknames, Il Divo being one of them. The film is almost but not quite caricature and it works hard to reveal the dark side of Andreotti and the corruption in Italian politics while at the same time exploring the inner workings of the Jesuitical Christian Democratic leader. The film was somewhat personal for me as I met Andreotti several times as a junior CIA officer accompanying the Chief of Station to meetings with the Prime Minister. The Chief at that time was a cold warrior referred to as The Sphinx. When Andreotti wished to communicate with the US government he ignored the Ambassador and would call in the CIA chief, who spoke beautiful Italian and whose mind was just as convoluted as Andreotti’s. I recall sitting in a gilded chair listening to the two converse in short sentences with long pauses in between. Each was carefully phrasing questions and responses that contained at least three levels of meaning, each word having to be examined carefully before proceeding.

The third movie is La Scorta, about a detail of Carabinieri policemen serving as bodyguards for an investigative magistrate in Trapani Sicily. The magistrate was investigating the mafia and official corruption. His predecessor had been killed. The story is both a thriller and a tale of the men of the escort, ordinary cops trying to figure out what is right in a sea of corrupt politicians. One overweight Sicilian politician reminded me a bit of Dennis Hastert.

All three movies are on DVD and are probably available from Netflix or from a well stocked video store. Two were recently on sale on Amazon.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Movies 
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  1. Nergol says:


    Strongly recommended is the Coen Brothers movie “A Serious Man”, which only got a limited release.

    Also, “Moon”, starring Sam Rockwell. Actual intelligent scifi.

  2. TGGP says: • Website

    “Each was carefully phrasing questions and responses that contained at least three levels of meaning, each word having to be examined carefully before proceeding.”
    Did that make anyone else think of Wodehouse’ “The Swoop!”

  3. MattSwartz says: • Website

    Although he is sometimes a bit heavy-handed when referencing the Middle East, I can think of no greater filmmaker than David Mamet. I have yet to see his name attached to anything that failed to utterly blow my mind.

    Redbelt is as great a movie about honor and loyalty facing their opposites as any I can name, Spartan tells such a compelling, torturous (and tragic) story that I can forget that Val Kilmer is playing lead, The Spanish Prisoner is at once utterly sexless and sexually explosive, and I won’t even diminish American Buffalo or Glengarry Glen Ross by attempting description.

    The Coen Brothers are good, too, as was Tarantino until he started reading his own press (2004?). Further than that, I rarely go.

  4. I’m curious as to how and what The Sphinx reported back to Washington. Short sentences with 3 layers of meaning doesn’t brief well. And just how much Le Carre craftiness was really required between Italy and America?

  5. Phil – Have you seen Mediteraneo? It’s about the comic adventures of some Italian troops stranded on a Greek island in WWII. The Troops go native and the whole thing is a hoot. I think it came out about twenty years ago. I may not have the spelling quite right.

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