New Review: “Borgia” – A great story by Buffalo’s Tom Fontana

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I’m sure a lot has been written in Buffalo about Fontana, but I finally got through all 39 episodes of the Canal+ European version of “Borgia” on Netflix. What a great production! Although people that don’t gravitate to Italian history might give it 4 stars, it’s clearly 5+ for me.

Fontana is an amazingly talented storyteller. There are several things that make this genre difficult.

  • How do you make it carry from episode to episode and not make it seem ‘stretched’?
  • How do you add intimacy (sex) and not make it seem timed to hold the audience?
  • How do you make a historical event understandable and not make it seem current?

Fontana nailed the first part. There were so many subplots that it carried itself. As someone who writes subplot after subplot, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. So many current books and movies are oversimplified to make them appear commercial. In “Borgia” there are too many duchies, kingdoms, and dukedoms for any but a seasoned historian to make sense of, but it hardly matters. The action and plot twists carry you past that.

As to the sex, one thing Fontana did which I loved was he portrayed both the men and women as sexual initiators. In so many productions women are either victims or sluts. Women are rarely portrayed as liking sex because, well… it’s fun, or that they can use it to get what they want. He did get a little carried away with the childbirth pain though but the intimacy scenes were very well done.

As to the historical event, it was portrayed brilliantly, as only an intellectual (Fontana doesn’t own a computer, he writes on a yellow pad) like he can do. The Pope is an evil man, as are the Cardinals that are forced, on the occasions when they’re not trying to kill each other to live by the word of God. Good and evil are so often personified as people when in fact, they are forces within people.

The last thing that struck me was the age of the actors. There were several that were 21 years old when filming started. Cesare Borgia (pronounced in the Italian “chez-a-ray”) was 21 and played a man that was mid-thirties. The stunning Isolda Dychauk, who played Lucrezia went from being a young girl to mid-thirties brilliantly.

The very end is the best, which I won’t spoil, but after episode 39, the primary actors explain the history of their family in a way that makes the entire series worth watching. It’s a great series for those days when you’re forced to stay home and are stuck with nothing but your TV. It’ll tie you up for 39 hours.

PS: Fontana in the series Law and Order was named after Tom.

Paul

http://www.paulschwartzmeyer.com

 

 

 

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