'1992': Berlin Review

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
Police drama plus the excitement of Italian scandals, based on an idea by star Stefano Accorsi

The first two 55-minute episodes of Sky Atlantic’s Italian corruption thriller '1992' previewed in the Berlin Film Festival’s new TV fiction section

The first two 55-minute episodes of Sky Atlantic’s Italian corruption thriller 1992 previewed with pomp and ceremony  as part of the Berlin Film Festival’s new experimental TV fiction section. It was a good crossover choice. Based on an idea by star Stefano Accorsi, a film actor who has also begun directing short films, the ten-episode series vaunts a classy cinematic look, from high quality lighting and production design to a sophisticated storyline. The title refers to an explosive period in Italy’s struggle against political corruption known as Tangentopoli and the subsequent investigation called Clean Hands.  It’s a key moment for contemporary Italian society, similar in its impact to Watergate, and though it may not seem like the most international of topics, the series’ producers think otherwise. It actually rose in-house from being a Sky Italia production to Sky Atlantic status, and will be distributed in five Euro territories day-and-date on March 24:  Italy, England, Ireland, Germany and Austria. Beta Film, which sold Gomorrah world-wide, is distributing.

There’s no denying the pilot is an exciting piece of work, though Italians are going to recognize the real characters and understand the true-crime backstory better. Whether this will pose a problem off-shore is to be seen. Most of what transpires in the first two episodes is pretty self-explanatory. On the plus side is the colorful story, strong acting and several startlingly explicit, very Italian sexual encounters with beautiful girls, notably a TV showgirl (Miriam Leone) intent on sleeping her way to the top.

The setting is Milan in the winter of 1991-92 and change is blowing in the cold wind. The ebullient Eighties are over and recession is setting in, as the debonair Leonardo Notte (Accorsi) well knows. He’s a cynical advertising exec at Publitalia, the company that Silvio Berlusconi created to collect ads for his TV network. In an amusing scene illustrating his devilry, he inspires an advertiser to back a new format show featuring teenage girls dancing around in microskirts and showing off their panties, a hallmark of what would become Italian private TV.

Berlusconi himself makes a fleeting appearance on a TV show as a much younger-looking man. It remains to be seen whether he will play a major role in upcoming episodes. Very much present is Leonardo’s Sphinxlike Sicilian boss and Publitalia prexy Marcello Dell’Utri. Berlusconi’s trusted associate, he ended up in jail on Mafia charges which date back to 1992 and one might guess that these are likely to be part of later episodes.

The creative team has also diluted the nuts-and-bolts of the real-life Tangentopoli (subtitled as “Bribesville”) with fictional characters like the bright young cop Luca Pastore (Domenico Diele), who has his own personal revenge agenda against Michele Mainaghi (Tommaso Ragno), one of the big shots the Milan judiciary has decided to reel in. The initial target is a medium fry named Mario Chiesa, but he opens the door on a maxi-scandal involving industrialists paying kickbacks to corrupt politicians. Luca’s boss is state investigator Antonio Di Pietro (Antonio Gerardi, a vague look-alike for the famous  whistle-blower who later became a politician) and he finds himself at the center of the action, just as Leonardo does on the other side.

One fictional character who looks like he might have stepped out of a boxing ring is a thick-headed Gulf War veteran (Guido Caprino.) He’s a total loser until the night he saves a political functionary by beating up two Albanian muggers and is elected, for no other reason, to Parliament as a deputy for the right-wing Northern League.  Bettino Craxi’s Socialist party, the most implicated in the corruption scandal, will no doubt be even more soundly trounced as the series goes on.

As strong as the pilot is, the second installment feels a lot more watered down and the pace slows as the screenplay takes each character one step farther.  There is plenty of ground to cover in the next eight episodes, but one thing is sure: fiction is never going to beat Italian history for sheer entertainment value.

A Sky Atlantic HD production in association with La7, produced by Wildside
Stefano Accorsi, Guido Caprino, Domenico Diele, Miriam Leone, Irene Casagrande, Teco Celio, Tea Falco, Antonio Gerardi, Natalino Balasso, Flavio Furno, Gianfelice Imparato, Giovanni Ludeno, Elena Radonicich, Tommaso Ragno, Pietro Ragusa, Alessandro Roja, Bebo Storti
Giuseppe Gagliardi
Created and written by Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, Stefano Sardo from an idea by Stefano Accorsi
Producers: Mario Gianani, Lorenzo Mieli
Director of photography: Michele Paradisi
Production designer: Francesca Balestra Di Mottola
Costume designer: Marco Alzari
Editor: Mauro Rossi
Casting: Valeria Miranda
Sales: Beta Film

No rating, 55 minutes x 10