by Barry Meyer
The Cult of Celebrity and Politics
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Silvio Berlusconi is an interesting political character, no doubt. He’s seemingly the most powerful man in Italy. He’s the Prime Minister, with heavy influences in politics. He even owns one of the country’s biggest football teams, AC Milan. He also controls 90 per cent of television, wielding authority and influence across the media. And in America, we all know the power of the media, and how it can be abused or misused.
Director Erick Gandini creates an amusing and pointed look at Italian TV and politics with assembled clips of 70s TV quiz shows, in which a “housewife” must strip down for every wrong answer, and modern shows, where velina girls are chosen, based pretty much on how they look and how they shake those looks. Being a velina girl means instant stardom, fame and fortune… and a pick of the latest bachelor footballer. In comparison, Gandini looks at the struggles for males who are looking for a shot at fame. Ricardo, an ordinary guy, who lives with his mother, believes that men get an unfair shake at stardom. He fancies himself a mash up of Ricky Martin and Jean-Claude Van Damme (picture high sweep kicks with saucy singing), but he bemoans the fact that he’ll never reach the heights of a velina girl, because Berlusconi’s media only fancies pretty young ladies.
Gandini also looks at Berlusconi’s friends and enemies. There’s the neighbor lady who used to take candid shots of her powerful neighbor, and has now been hired as his personal photographer, capturing all his best moments on film. There’s TV agent Lele Mora and close personal friend is like a character out of a Blake Edwards comedy. He lounges all day in opulence, surrounded by hunky young men in swim suits (they work for him in television). Mora, a Mussolini admirer (he has the Italian leader’s theme music as his ring tome), is the man in charge of creating the next big Italian TV star. But most interesting is is Fabrizio Corona. A paparazzi,born to a family of journalists, Corona seemingly despised celebrity, snapping candids of the stars who abused or squandered their power. Ironically, after serving a short prison sentence for extortion, Fabrizio Crona became a media sensation himself on the, via the “President’s television” (you can imagine the same thing would happen if the hounds at TMZ were ever offered mega dollars to be in cahoots with their favorite celebrity target).
Everything that Gandini presents is highly watchable and amusing. But at the end of it all, it left me wondering about what it all means. Are there threatening consequences for the Prime Minister’s power over politics and media? And, besides the careers of high kicking salsa singers, what is the effect upon the citizens of Italy? Having never set foot in Italy, or having studied the social and political landscape of the country, I was befuddled as to what this all meant on the larger scale of things. But, as a nice little expose on the hypocrisy of people in power, and of those who want it — it’s an amusing piece and works well.
Barry Meyer Barry Meyer was born to the world as the first scientifically produced Cathode Tube baby. He’s a film critic, videographer, editor, and writer, residing in Jamestown, NY.
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