Entangled in debts and his own weaknesses, struggling with a failing marriage to Paola (Margherita Buy), Bruno Bonomo (Silvio Orlando) is going under, struggling to pitch a movie about Columbus. By chance, he meets Teresa (Jasmine Trinca), who gives him her debut script, The Caiman. At first Bruno takes it for a half-hearted thriller; a more careful - if belated - reading reveals it to be a film about Italy's controversial mogul/politician, Silvio Berlusconi. Inspired, he must set up the production, find the lead actor, sort out the financing- all the while trying to manage the dissolving marriage and their two sons. In the midst of the endless setbacks and problems, a new spirit is awakened in Bruno Bonomo, and with it, the assertion of his dignity.
Review by Louise Keller:
The Caiman is a curious film. While there are flashes of brilliance and stimulating ideas, it is plagued by an underbelly of confusion. Surprisingly, the satire and political barbs that filmmaker Nanni Moretti are keen to inject, are the least effective, and it is the heartfelt story of a struggling B-film producer with the crumbling marriage that grabs our interest.
Silvio Orlando's Bruno is a sweet and likeable loser, and uses Aidra, the main character from his cult-films like 'Cataracts' as fodder for bedtime stories for his two young songs. Aidra, played by his wife Paola (Margherita Buy) is not the kind of character you would expect youngsters to want to hear about as they drift off into dreamland. After all, she attacks men with knives, and other violent things. Ideas like this work beautifully, giving the film a droll sense of humour, often interspersed with pathos. Paradoxically, Bruno is so sensitive, he cannot bear to break the news to his boys that their marriage is crashing on the rocks. When Teresa (Jasmine Trinca) hands him her script for The Caiman (Spanish term for 'alligator'), he knows that everyone else to whom it has been offered has turned it down. Once he realises that it refers to Italy's controversial prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, he feels that for the first time, he has a chance to make a film of importance.
The performances are all excellent, and Moretti's piece de resistance to cast himself as one of the actors playing the role of Berlusconi, is effective indeed. But the all-important satire drowns in the plot confusion and what should sting sharply, only touches the surface.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Caiman is a perfect example of how expectations of a film can have a negative effect for the unguarded viewer: with all the talk of the film's treatment of disgraced Italian mogul/politician Silvio Berlusconi, it was disconcerting to find the film's central focus a C grade film producer, played by Silvio Orlando with his hang-dog face. The expectations about how Berlusconi manipulated his media empire, or how he suppressed and censored the media, cheated and raided Italy - is but a rump of the film.
Bruno Bonomo (a none too subtle name for our hero) is the character with who we empathise in his struggle against the odds. He is the everyman, the decent, dogged, put-upon creature whose fate has been tossed to the lions of the jungle of life. He endears himself to us with his attention to his young sons, and with his sincere B grade aspirations.
Margherita Buy is the vulnerable yet feisty wife Paola, who also stars in some of his atrocious B movies, and Jasmine Trinca is the lovely young writer/director whose script is the tool of redemption for Bruno. Jerzy Stuhr delivers an entertaining cameo as a Polish film financier and respected filmmaker Giuliano Montaldo as Franco makes for a suitably crusty head of production.
The film's topicality and its Italian-specific nuances are best appreciated by Italians, but the thrust of the finger pointing at Berlusconi is clear enough. Still, I find the film fractured and confusingly constructed; you'll have to put up with three Berlusconis played by actors, as well as one by the man himself seen in news footage.
Nanni Moretti has tried to blend a dramatic romantic comedy with a political docu-drama, and for me this ends up not so much a Molotov cocktail as a haphazardly mixed party punch. There are some funny moments and some insightful moments - both personal and political - but ultimately it's a frustrating work from such a fine filmmaker.
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CAIMAN, THE (M)
CAST: Silvio Orlando, Margherita Buy, Jasmine Trinca, Michele Placido, Guiliano Montaldo, Antonello Grimaldi, Paolo Sorrentino, Elio De Capitani, Tatti Sanguinetti, Jerzy Stuhr, Toni Bertorelli, Matteo Garrone
PRODUCER: Angelo Barbagallo
DIRECTOR: Nanni Moretti
SCRIPT: Nanni Moretti
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Arnaldo Catinari
EDITOR: Esmaralda Calabria
MUSIC: Franco Piersanti
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Giancarlo Basili
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 23, 2006