Holy cannoli! Though Paolo Sorrentino’s much-anticipated TV show The New Pope only went live last Friday, we already feel like we can’t live without some of its props & all-too-fleshy voyeuristic relics. So, let’s just refrain from the heavy theoretical stuff for a moment. Let’s take a step back to find out why – critique notwithstanding – we can’t help but feel sensuously attracted to each and every frame of The New Pope; and how little objects and minuscule details are in fact the propelling machine that keeps Sorrentino’s show alive. Before you perplexedly raise your hands: yes, to Sorrentino’s eyes, bodies are objects too. And here’s how the Italian director won the bet of raising the (im)maculate stakes of this second season even higher than those of the first one. For your convenience, we drafted a list of 5 The New Pope things that deserve peerage in the realm of Fetish. Read quickly, though. We’ll be forwarding this to a certain Mr. Q. Tarantino, US, in 3…2…1…
5. THE NEON CROSS
Reclining over comatose Young Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law), this electrical Madonna stands good guard over the holy one’s restless sleep. Or so it may seem. It’s not long before this Mexican memento mori turns into a dancing pole for a squad of vampire-like nuns living their best nocturnal life when the cat – a.k.a. Mother Superior – is away. As soon as their strip-naked bodies start to tangle around THE Neon Cross to the cocaine-sniffing rhythm of Sofi Tukker’s Good Time Girl, we know this is the point of no return – and in fact, the dance comes with the opening titles. We gape, and clean up that saliva mess that’s been gushing out our mouths for almost half a minute now. That’s it, guys. That’s what I call fetish squared. Because, if we really come to think of that, THE Neon Cross is a very neat prop, something that all of us would like to keep in our (back)yards, but nothing more than that. But we know that THE Neon Cross is getting someone in the show very excited. And that’s what we get all worked up about.
4. JOHN MALKOVICH’S DEAD-OF-NIGHT EYE MAKE-UP
Let that sweet nostalgia carry you away to the wind-swept, war-torn lands of Middle Earth. Or let your imagination guide you through the hyper-technological mazes of faster-than-light spaceships. Whichever you choose, just try not to be disappointed when you won’t find powerful Saruman (Christopher Lee) or scheming Count Dooku (also Christopher Lee) to welcome you. The Ghost of Mr. Lee Past has now taken possession of John Malkovich’s body, and nothing can be done to restrain his dark, shadowy influence upon the actor. It shows in John Brannox’s night-dark eye make-up. Not even Sauron’s eye or Emperor Palpatine’s blazing beady eyes can match the deep-seated despair that haunts Brannox (and Malkovich’s)’s stage mask.
Now that I think about that: isn’t John Malkovich a fetish himself?
3. SILVIO ORLANDO’S VOLCANIC CHEEK MOLE
Squatting Cardinal Angelo Voiello (Silvio Orlando)’s cheek since 2016, this volcanic Eminence has taken scriptwriters Sorrentino and Contarello to court to fight for his right to have his name written on the credits. It won its battle. And, in fact, we can’t help but feel that this mole actually plays a pivotal role in The New Pope. It’s the epitome of excess. It’s a symbol of everything that stands out excessively in Sorrentino’s papal palace. This obtrusive appendix does not really belong to Orlando’s face, and maybe (who knows?) it doesn’t belong to Voiello’s face either. Every character of The New Pope wears a symbolic disguise to deflect other people’s attention. Be it a gigantic mole or a papal mitre.
2. THE WHITE HANDKERCHIEF HIDING JUDE LAW’S NAUGHTY BITS
It’s no secret: The New Pope opens with a scene of holy feminine pleasure. But we all already know that. What we might have overlooked in our sexual voyeurism is the object that sparks the guardian nun to Pius XIII’s desire. The scene opens with the nun gently striking Jude Law’s dormant sculpted body with a wet sponge. He’s naked, and a much-revealing white handkerchief hides his pudenda from impure gazes. The room is dark and empty. They’re watched by THE (buzzing) Neon Cross. As her hands come to wash the Pope’s pelvis, she 100% inadvertently brushes against the piece of cloth, which slightly slides to one side of the holy Elvis (i.e. pelvis). The nuns freezes. She then gets hold of one of the angles of the handkerchief and pulls it reverently back in place. Then self-pleasuring phase begins. Do I even have to explain you why that piece of cloth should be called fetish?
1. … AND THESE ARE LEAKED IMAGES
Have you ever seen a catwalk like this? Halfway between Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and one of Anna Wintour’s personal fashion showcases (I’m just assuming she holds some from time to time), Pius XIII has been turned into the fetish par excellence: warmly aloof and untouchable; enticing and saint-like. Seen from a human perspective, this is quite exceptional. Not because Pius XIII, when all is said and done, is Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. But because Jude Law’s body is a long shot from being the hottest one around. He’s cute and well-toned; definitely a sex symbol. But a wonderfully vintage one, just like the spotlessly white speedo that he almost incidentally wears in these images. Once more, this is a declaration of intentions from Sorrentino’s part, and The New Pope just pretends to be a show about the unholy sides of holiness. Instead, it’s a celebration of the fleshiness of life. A life that’s so fetishized that it becomes a cult in itself.