"Less a biography on the early life of Fascist leader Benito Mussolini than a dissection into creating (and sustaining) a cult of personality," writes Acquarello, "Marco Bellocchio's Vincere is a textured, operatic, and incisive historical fiction based on the fate of Mussolini's secret first wife, Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) who, along with their son, Benito Albino, were erased from Mussolini's official record as he sought to consolidate power and build a totalitarian state."
"Late Bellocchio has been a bit of a headscratcher for me," writes Michael Sicinski, "partly because I've never been entirely certain how the director has wanted his audience to interpret his frequent dips into grand opera.... Vincere clarifies his tactics quite a bit, since the rise of Italian Fascism allows Bellocchio to exercise his bombast within heavy quotation marks.... For the first half to two-thirds of Vincere, Bellocchio uses Dalser's story as a kind of materialist, ground-level allegory for the brutal bait-and-switch that was Italian Fascism."
"[T]hough Vincere starts to run dry of stunning set pieces and become a little redundant in its second hour, the central premise retains its power and poignancy throughout," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club.
"In one key scene, late in the film, Ida and her fellow inmates are treated to a screening of a Charlie Chaplin flick," notes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "As the Little Tramp becomes separated from his young son, Ida is thrown into a state of fevered agitation that gives way to tears of relief as the two on-screen figures are reunited. Denied a similar reunion with her own offspring, Ida is granted a catharsis unavailable to her in real life through the artful manipulation of film images. In such moments, Bellocchio reaffirms the power of the movies to bring about a sort of redemption. And of course, this is exactly Vincere's own unique accomplishment, as the Italian master calls on his highly refined cinematic art to restore a forgotten woman to a historical record so often rewritten to serve the brutal demands of political power."
"Encompassing over twenty years of fairly complicated history in a two hour, twenty-minute movie is tricky," writes Brandon Harris, "and Vincere clearly suffers from trying to cover so much ground that the elements which would have allowed the story to register as tragedy just don't congeal in the rush to explore all the story threads."
"Bellocchio trades his usual surrealist strokes for the aesthetics of newsreels and agitprop," writes Martin Tsai in the Critic's Notebook. "Compared to the filmmaker's generally intimate fare, Vincere has the aura of an ambitious epic."
"Boldly melodramatic yet undeniably powerful, Vincere is a return to accessibility for director Marco Bellocchio," finds Time Out New York's Joshua Rothkopf.
Earlier: Reviews from Cannes.
Tom Kington has a tangential yet fascinating bit of news in today's Guardian: "History remembers Benito Mussolini as a founder member of the original Axis of Evil, the Italian dictator who ruled his country with fear and forged a disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany. But a previously unknown area of Il Duce's CV has come to light: his brief career as a British agent."
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