“We must face with irony the malaise that surrounds us”

Under his hat, Paolo Sorrentino thought he was going incognito. However, as soon as he arrives at the Saint-Victor café, two Italians stare at him with admiring eyes, and snatch a selfie from him. On the other side of the Alps, the filmmaker is an icon: in Naples, the city where he spent his first thirty years, the Christmas cribs house figurines bearing his effigy. On this chilly winter evening, he gave us a date a stone’s throw from his Parisian pied-à-terre, between the Maison de la Mutualité and the Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet church, in the Latin Quarter.

Socialist red and Catholic black: the big gap fits him like a glove. See his filmography, which scrutinizes sometimes earthly power (The celebrity, 2008 ; Silvio and the others, 2018), sometimes spiritual (the series The Young Pope and The New Pope, from 2016 to 2020). Look at his parents, too: a banker and communist father; a mother raised by nuns who covered her with pins when she went to the cinema, so that she wouldn’t be groped.

“It’s a story full of pitfalls: victimization, complacency, watering down… I waited until I had enough experience to tell it”

Sorrentino’s first visit to Paris came shortly after their deaths, in the mid-1980s. “My brother pushed me to travel, to get a change of scenery,” he rewinds. During a stay in their second home in Abruzzo, her parents are asphyxiated by a faulty stove. Paolo is 16 years old; his brother and sister, nine and thirteen years older, will watch over him. In full mourning, they discover a half-brother, from a paternal affair with a colleague. This trauma is at the heart of God’s hand, released in December 2021 on Netflix. The film is in the running for the Oscar for best foreign language film, which Sorrentino already won in 2014 with The great beauty. This is his most personal work; the most poignant and refined, too. “This time, I didn’t care about making beautiful plans, there is little music, confess this great mannerist before the Lord. It’s a story full of pitfalls: victimization, complacency, watering down… I waited until I had enough experience to tell it, with the right distance. »

On the day of the tragedy, rather than join his parents, Sorrentino remained to support the Napoli team, and his adored player, Diego Maradona. It is to his hand, with which he scored a famous goal, that the title refers. “I owe him my life. He died during the editing, on my children’s birthday. I couldn’t be happy and I felt very guilty about it. It’s strange to be so sad for someone you don’t know even if we had met once, in Madrid. »

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