Even those with a cursory knowledge of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s exploits would agree that his story warrants the deluxe, multiple-disc, Ken Burns–like treatment. Videocracy, a well-intentioned but scattershot jeremiad against Berlusconi’s domineering influence on Italian popular culture, is no such undertaking. Italian documentarian Erik Gandini builds his (easily won) case by co-opting Michael Moore’s breathy outrage, grounding his macrocriticisms within unfocused character studies of a citizenry enamored with the tube’s seductive glare. We learn that Italian television is dominated by velines, buxom backup dancers who keep audiences entertained between game-show segments. In Berlusconi’s Italy, these women—scantily clad, busty, and silent—preen for the camera to achieve success: fame, fortune, and a footballer husband. The parallels between their vapid notoriety and Berlusconi’s made-for-TV charisma (to say nothing of his troubling media connections) are provocative but consistently muddled by Gandini’s ham-fisted indictments. That Videocracy suffers from its director’s intrusive, hyperbolic flourishes is perhaps another example of Berlusconi’s ubiquitous influence on the Italian entertainment industry.

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