Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Videocracy

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

Headline: Chilling Bio-Pic Reveals Italy Prime Minister as Benevolent Despot

 

Silvio Berlusconi is Italy’s longest-serving Prime Minister. The key to the media mogul-turned-politician’s enduring success is revealed by the fact that he owns all three of the country’s private television networks. Plus, as chief executive, he also controls the state-run stations. So, he oversees about 90% of the mass media.

 

All you need to know is that Berlusconi is basically Italy’s answer to Howard Stern to imagine the sort of slime that has come to saturate the airwaves. Not only do most of the shows he produces feature half-naked women cavorting around in g-strings, but it has become the dream of most girls to grow up to become a so-called “Velina,” even though the non-speaking job involves little more than looking slutty while dancing topless like brainless bimbos alongside the host. Other females aspire to equally-demeaning roles, like a stint as “Miss Billionaire” a two-week gig as a scantily-clad weather girl.

 

In Videocracy, a jaw-dropping documentary directed by Erik Gandini, we’re treated to the sight of wannabe Velinas and Miss Billionaires as they queue up to audition in droves, American Idol-style. When asked why they’d humiliate themselves to land a position where they’ll be expected to expose themselves, the typical contestant’s naïve response is that they see it as a stepping-stone to fame or to marriage to a pro soccer player or a multi-millionaire. And not only are shapely signorinas showing up at the studios, but so are a lot of self-deluded and/or desperate battle-axes nobody really wants to see disrobe, except perhaps to serve as the butt of a cruel joke.

 

More important than chronicling such displays of misogynistic depravity is Videocracy’s earnest endeavor to issue a dire warning about the consequences of allowing virtually all of a nation’s media programming and political power to fall into the hands of one individual. For, inter alia, we learn that Silvio Berlusconi, who is rumored to have mob connections, has given himself immunity from prosecution. He sounds more like a monarch than an elected official. Thus, what has evolved is an unseemly scenario where the masses of mesmerized couch potatoes are being titillated ad nauseam while Rome burns, so to speak.

 

Furthermore, Berlusconi orders any unflattering images of himself destroyed, although he’s the owner of every major gossip magazines anyway. And the benevolent despot (some suggest malevolent) even had this film banned from Italian movie theaters. Why? Because he is acutely aware that in the 21st Century’s electronic age where image trumps substance, the key to power rests in always being able to manipulate the message in one’s own favor without regard to the truth.

 

A chilling, cautionary expose’ of Orwellian dimensions.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

In English and Italian with subtitles.

Running time: 85 Minutes

Distributor: Lorber Films

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