Plagued by teenage sex scandals, charges of corruption and making Pompeii fall down, asked to step down by a former ally, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi seems to be nearing the end of his storied turn as one of the most tabloid-friendly world leaders. Which makes it a great time to revisit “Videocracy,” Erik Gandini’s scathing documentary about Italy under Berlusconi that received a very limited theatrical release earlier this year but is absolutely worth looking up now that it’s on DVD (as is currently streamable on Netflix Instant).
Gandini’s film is unapologetically biased, a cultural overview as horror film — Gandini has name-checked “Salò” when describing the imagery he presents, and his voiceover is laden with doom, Michael Moore with a sense of poetry. “Videocracy” gives very little larger context or background Berlusconi, but instead presents his influence as pervading the country and leaving it a soul-sick mess anesthetized by trash TV and longing for fame. And despite these choices/limitations, it’s a real earworm of a film (eyeworm?), wriggling its way into your memory with striking sequences of girls auditioning at a strip mall to be veline, the powerful agent with a Mussolini ringtone holed up in his all-white villa, the paparazzo-turned-celebrity preening nude and dead-eyed in front of the mirror, and most strikingly, the karaoke-style campaign video in full below, in which the photogenic masses sing in smiling praise of Berlusconi.