We Have a Pope jabs at the pontiff and his Vatican surroundings
Starring Michel Piccoli and Jerzy Stuhr. In Italian with English subtitles. Rated G. Opens Friday, June 1, at the Ridge Theatre
In We Have a Pope, veteran filmmaker Nanni Moretti tackles the pontiff and his Vatican surroundings with a curious combination of reticence and courage that will leave most viewers decidedly undernourished.
When an old, unnamed pope dies, the College of Cardinals meets to pick a successor. Elderly men are then overheard praying “Not me, Lord,” in a half-dozen languages. A few names dominate multiple votes, but in the end—and this is never explained, politically or otherwise—the gig goes to a French dark horse called Melville.
He is played by Michel Piccoli, one of France’s greatest players and a veteran of many Italian films. This could have proved to be a valedictorian role for an 86-year-old actor. But Melville is simply shell-shocked by the appointment and stays that way for the rest of the movie. So the focus shifts to the Vatican spokesman (Poland’s Jerzy Stuhr, a favourite of the late director Krzysztof Kieslowski), who struggles to get the new pope up on that famous balcony.
The PR guy’s backstage manoeuvres include calling in a nonbelieving psychiatrist—played preeningly by the director—who talks more about himself and his ex-wife (Margherita Buy, whom we later meet) and how she couldn’t stand being Italy’s second-best headshrinker. Hilarious, non?
When Melville goes AWOL, pennilessly wandering the streets of Rome (like The Prince and the Papa? ), our bearded analyst organizes the remaining clergymen into volleyball teams to kill their time and, more crucially, ours. Throughout this beautifully shot and ultimately toothless movie, Moretti hints at the corruption that is imploding the Catholic Church, and he jabs at the easy target of ecclesiastical theatricality. But a story that begins with a puff of smoke pretty much stays up in the air until a surprisingly strong finish—one that only serves to hint at what could have come before.
Watch the trailer for We Have a Pope.