Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Italy/France, 2011. Sacher Film, Fandango, Le Pacte, France 3 Cinéma, Rai Cinema, Canal+, Coficup, Backup Media, France Télévision, Eurimages. Screenplay by Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo, Federica Pontremoli. Cinematography by Alessandro Pesci. Produced by Jean Labadie, Nanni Moretti, Domenico Procacci. Music by Franco Piersanti. Production Design by Paola Bizzarri. Costume Design by Lina Nerli Taviani. Film Editing by Esmerelda Calabria. Cannes Film Festival 2011. Toronto International Film Festival 2011.
Following the death of the pope, the international assortment of high-ranking Vatican clergy gather together to cast their votes on his replacement, each of them praying (in a myriad of languages, in one of the film’s funniest sequences) that the burden won’t fall upon them. The eventual choice is France’s Michel Piccoli, who is gussied up for the revelation ceremony but, at the last minute, has a panic attack and flees. Holing up in his apartment for a few days, he is put in the way of a psychiatrist (director Nanni Moretti) who is frustrated by the secretive city’s protocol in trying to help his patient, but this is all pointless when Piccoli manages to skirt his colleagues and flee his enclave altogether. What can a shrink, now held hostage in the Vatican in order to prevent the news getting out, do to kill time except hold an international volleyball tournament with top-flight Catholic clerics? This positively delightful comedy will disappoint anyone hoping for anything incendiary or controversial about the Catholic church (which is possibly the reason for its tepid reception at Cannes); it is rather a sweet and disarming bauble that posits the all-boys’ city as a world of hopeless romantics who are more members of Never Never Land rather than a powerful religious organization. At the heart of it is Moretti’s hysterical cynicism (the scene where he goes through the mens’ medications is also a highlight) and Piccoli’s robustly powerful performance, his conflict of conscience and fear of responsibility taking up the central heart of an otherwise light and pleasing experience.