The Young Pope

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domino harvey
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The Young Pope

#1 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:59 am

The Young Pope (Paolo Sorrentino)

I gather the reception to this was mixed at best, but I was gobsmacked at how much I enjoyed this. I’ve never seen anything Paolo Sorrentino’s directed (and despite loving this, none of his other films look like I would want to), but the ten hours of this miniseries are filled with endlessly entertaining visuals and clever presentations at the service of an unexpected character piece. There are enough inventive ideas in blocking and presentation alone here for a couple dozen films. How this ended up empty handed for Sorrentino and the never better Jude Law (who gives one of the best performances in recent memory, encompassing seemingly every human emotion in an organic fashion) is a mystery, and a travesty. But, then again, I’m shocked this film got funded and made, as it is wildly esoteric and bizarre, not at all the comfortable costume drama it appears to be from the outside. Indeed, PBS-honed viewers must have turned this off in droves long before they even understood where Sorrentino was going with the material.

The film that starts off as a clever “What if”: What if the Catholic Church followed up our current Most Progressive Pope Ever with a regressive candidate who adhered to the unpopular policies of the church and threatened to unravel the church via its own existent but not necessarily enforced policies and decrees? When Law’s buffoonish pope reveals himself not only as no puppet but as a blistering, Jonathan Edwards-style fearmongerer in the brilliant first homily (in what might be one of the most unexpectedly horrifying sequences in recent memory), it’s a gut punch. Sorrentino will run through a few more such turns before he’s done, and arrive at something far from the anti-clerical appearance the work seems to take initially.

Sorrentino presentation of Law’s pope is one of evolving expectations. Looking back, I deeply admire the film for how it effectively strung the audience along the same interpretations of Law as the characters who surround him: amusement, bemusement, morbid curiosity, terror,
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understanding, and finally, unexpectedly, reverence and love. That it only gradually becomes clear that we’re not seeing a criticism of the church or a critique of old fashioned methods or rigid doctrine, but something else entirely: this is the portrait of a saint. When Diane Keaton initially claims Law is a saint, it seems delusional and evidence of her matronly affection. But eventually it seems indisputable: Law’s pope is a saint, working with and in concordance with God. It’s telling that his last act is to recognize the legitimacy of another saint, and one senses a cycle of sorts in play.

Law’s complexity of character and performance sells how rigid adherence to the beliefs of the church must invariably come off as cold and distant. And it’s not til the end of the film, when Law’s goodness seems indisputable, that one is able to rerun the previous “villainous” behaviors and see their positive function, even if they were brusquely employed. How his faith in certain characters is revealed to not be nefarious but manipulative in the best sense: he sees their needs and brings them catharsis, as in Javier Cámara’s alcoholic monsignor (who gives the second-best perf here behind Law). Even Law’s pigheaded vanity can be read differently in retrospect: dishonoring and mocking the Pope is the same as dishonoring and mocking God. What’s seemingly a personal vendetta is far more overriding than that. And so on, all down the line.
I love any work of art that delights me, surprises me, moves me, and impresses me. Sorrentino’s film does all four. This is less a TV show and more a ten hour movie. And it’s one of the best films of the decade so far.

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Young Pope

#2 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:27 pm

I have only seen the first episode as of this post, but this tweet made me laugh

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knives
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Re: The Young Pope

#3 Post by knives » Sat Jan 20, 2018 8:42 pm

I'll second support for Dom's position. While overall this is probably my second least favorite Sorrentino (after the turgid The Great Beauty it nonetheless manages to be supremely engaging on the level of aesthetic, theme, and especially character. Even far distant from the plot things like the monsignor's relationship with the fat landlord are really well played giving a sense of a reality well beyond the one limited to the screen. I especially grew a fondness between the interplay of Keaton and Orlando which is honestly a great relationship.

The show is also really compelling for how it works with Sorrentino's pet idea of the mundane face of great things. Now, Law is not mundane in the least. In many respects he's a charming, modern, and engaging person who easily could have made a successful 'media' pope. His modern Americana though is his mundane face covering for the complex representation of a certain Julius II personality he has. Considering the thematic things you mentioned liking Dom, perhaps The Family Friend would be a good next stop for you if you wish to continue on with Sorrentino. It's easily his best precedent for his work here though my personal favorite is The Consequences of Love. As far as I know the only way to get his early work L'uomo in più is through the Artificial Eye set.

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Mungo
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Re: The Young Pope

#4 Post by Mungo » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:15 am

This all sounds fascinating, where would it be streaming?

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Young Pope

#5 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 1:13 am

HBO Go, HBO Now, or on the Amazon HBO channel.

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John Cope
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Re: The Young Pope

#6 Post by John Cope » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:28 am

Well, I thought this was pretty bad. And at 10 hours also close to excrucitaing. I really should have known better though. I'm no fan of Sorrentino and this just cements that more than ever. If he's going to take this subject on and can't do it right than I may as well give up on him. Admittedly it has its moments and its merits (aesthetically especially, of course), the ending (and I mean the *very* end) has some pathos and some weight, even or perhaps especially when it's at its most "weightless", but none of this is nearly enough to make up for the turgid rest which is mostly trite, tepid and insipid as well as tedious to an extreme. There's a scene in here in which the Pope is confronted with the ghosts of his predecessors and asks for advice; he's provided with some banal platitude characteristic of the show but he then goes on to point out that it's a banal platitude and is told in reply that he hasn't come to understand its prevailing truth. Though this is accurate enough to say to some degree (cliches are cliches for a reason and can have profound resonance at times) it doesn't excuse drowning in such shallowness throughout and comes off more as a lame excuse by Sorrentino to justify the overall lameness of his entire enterprise. It's facile, not fascinating.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Young Pope

#7 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:19 pm

That is appropriately enough a shallow and uncharitable reading of the scene. The entire film documents how Law is estranged from those around him by the nature of his title and responsibility (in addition to his demeanor and, of course, the reveal of his ultimate function), so here even when he turns to the past and his predecessors, he is still left to his own devices. I don't know how you can interpret that scene as advocating for the cliche; it's showing how far removed Law is even from his predecessors, further cementing his specialness, and reiterating the loneliness of true
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saintdom

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