How HBO’s Kinky, Sex-Crazed ‘The New Pope’ Compares to Netflix’s Oscar-Nominated ‘The Two Popes’ – Periódico Página100 – Noticias de popayán y el Cauca

How HBO’s Kinky, Sex-Crazed ‘The New Pope’ Compares to Netflix’s Oscar-Nominated ‘The Two Popes’

By: Barbie Latza Nadeau

HBO’s miniseries “The New Pope” paints a vastly different view than Netflix’s Oscar-nominated film “The Two Popes” of what it’s really like to be God’s man on Earth.

ROME—There is a shocking scene early on in the first episode of Paolo Sorrentino’s sequel to HBO’s hugely popular series The Young Pope, which ended in 2016 with Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII slipping into a coma. And it’s not when the cherubic nun giving a sponge bath to Law’s comatose, semi-nude pope then masturbates to her own personal ecstasy. Nor is it when Law, appearing as a ghost-like figure in white vestments, gently seeks to calm the Vatican’s public relations guru, played by Cécile de France, who has, herself, collapsed in orgasm after sexting some Vatican higher-up.

It’s when John Malkovich, playing a devout Catholic cleric we all know is soon to be tapped as the new pope—hence the name of the film that premieres on HBO on Monday and the photos of him in vestments in the trailer—sort of flings himself in boredom onto various pieces of decadent furniture in a British estate. Whether he is channeling a feline or is a closet contortionist is unclear, but it is the sort of visceral physical acting that has come to define Sorrentino’s reluctant role as the one true successor to Federico Fellini, who also used Rome, the Vatican, and the opulence of it all as characters to great success.

Gianni Fiorito/HBO

The film starts with Vatican elite visiting the country estate near London Malkovich shares with his elderly parents, who won’t talk to him after his twin brother, their favorite, died decades earlier. The cardinals are there to convince him to come to Rome to oversee the Catholic Church as a titular pope since Law’s Lenny Belardo, or Pope Pius XIII, is in a coma. The cardinals are accompanied by sexually frustrated priests burdened by the desire of their lust for each other played against a backdrop of equally erotic slurping up of Italian food and hypnotic church bells.

It’s almost as if Malkovich’s pope-to-be is being courted to become the CEO of a multi-million dollar firm with promises of perks and benefits. Malkovich, whose smudgy dark eyeliner is as dark as the humor sewn into the script, purrs back at them, calling each one Eminence in a guttural whisper.  

Eventually, Malkovich becomes Pope John Paul III, at just about the time Law’s Pius XIII is coming out of his coma, which is consummated with a Bo Derek-like saunter from the sea, complete with a form-fitting Speedo that leaves so much to the imagination. The inevitable conflict with having two popes both wanting power is predictable. But, just as Sorrentino defied expectations to make Jude’s ultra-sexy Pius XIII a conservative prude, Malkovich’s John Paul III is somewhat of a pervert, wishing for nude photos in his official portrait and staring just a bit too long at the young nuns. Sharon Stone makes an appearance as herself with a slew of Basic Instinct references. And Marilyn Manson also makes an appearance, surprisingly not as the devil, but as a cult figure Malkovich’s pope always wanted to meet. And, since he’s now pope, why not exploit that power? There is also a bizarre neon cross under which nubile young nuns writhe in sheer dressing gowns and the occasional recitation of the Quran after the ailing Pope Pius XIII undergoes a heart transplant with the heart of an Egyptian Muslim. A few episodes later, a terrorist attack damages Michelangelo’s Pieta inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

The show glosses over the church’s biggest problems—pedophilia and corruption—but only just. The themes are there, but there is no way that even a nine-episode production can scratch the surface without sounding preachy.

It could be argued that, much like Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning 2013 film The Great Beauty, this film offers a whole lot of inside baseball. There are full scenes that only Romans or Vatican-watchers will get. And they are delightful. But it begs the question whether it is too esoteric; whether the plot will be enjoyed by only a small few or whether the cinematography, which is dizzyingly captivating, will be enough for those moments when the plot is lost.

Sorrentino, who is from deeply-Catholic Naples, said in a series of interviews with members of the foreign press in Rome that his papal franchise is not so much a commentary on the problems of the Catholic Church but that his films are inspired by his own inner struggles and, like many Italians, that comes down to the influence of the Catholic Church on one’s life. “In all the stories I tell, the struggles of my characters are the struggles I have within me,” he said recently. That struggle was also depicted in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, which dealt with the same sort of issues: crime, religion, and the burden of being Italian.

In all the stories I tell, the struggles of my characters are the struggles I have within me.— Paolo Sorrentino

But what is perhaps even more fascinating about this delightful, fictional papal sequel, which aired Friday night in Italy, is the way it contrasts with the other two-pope production fresh out of the editing room. Fernando Meirelles’s The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins as retired Pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce and Juan Minujín as an old and young version of the real Pope Francis, was released a few days before Christmas. Hopkins was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Pryce for Best Actor for the film, which comes out amid a new book authored by the real retired Benedict that undercuts his successor on the issue of married priests. The Netflix film, which has won critical acclaim, is actually far more farcical than Sorrentino’s blatant assault on the senses.

The Two Popes envisions a long conversation between Benedict and Francis which, the Vatican has confirmed, never took place. Other than the missed premise, it does  paint a picture steeped in historical fact, shows real scenes in Argentina before Francis was elected, touches on hints of Benedict’s very real Nazi Youth past, and peels up enough of the scab of the Church’s horrific clerical sex-abuse scandal to make viewers uncomfortable. But it could not be further from the truth of how it came to be that the Catholic world now has two popes.

Both films also portray the conclave in which a new pope is elected almost identically, including the backroom-dealing. Both also paint the popes—all four of them—as not men of faith but men struggling to keep it, which must surely be a very real phenomenon.

That these two dueling pope productions come out just weeks apart is a true testament to the interest in the powerful Catholic Church, the very real fact that there are two living popes, and the unanswered questions about how a patriarchy riddled with scandal can survive so easily in these times. Both paint Rome and its breathtaking environs in all its glory, and both films—and all four popes—manage to expose all that is wrong and all that is right about the strange world they portray. 

Fuente: / Source: www.thedailybeast.com

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