Scene Last Night: Depressed Pope, Turturro, Volleyball

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Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

A volleyball tournament gets underway in a Vatican courtyard in the film 'We Have a Pope.' Sundance Selects releases the film in the U.S. on April 6.

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Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

A volleyball tournament gets underway in a Vatican courtyard in the film 'We Have a Pope.' Sundance Selects releases the film in the U.S. on April 6. Close

A volleyball tournament gets underway in a Vatican courtyard in the film 'We Have a Pope.' Sundance Selects releases... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Nanni Moretti, who directs and plays a psychiatrist in the film "We Have a Pope," is jury president for the Cannes Film Festival opening May 16. "I hope the jurors, like me, find joy in seeing two to three films a day." Close

Nanni Moretti, who directs and plays a psychiatrist in the film "We Have a Pope," is jury president for the Cannes... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Director and actor Nanni Moretti and his girlfriend, Chiara Palmieri, at Desmond's. Dinner was roast chicken. Close

Director and actor Nanni Moretti and his girlfriend, Chiara Palmieri, at Desmond's. Dinner was roast chicken.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Book editor Nan Talese and journalist Gay Talese. Close

Book editor Nan Talese and journalist Gay Talese.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Film press agent Peggy Siegal and actor John Turturro. Siegal arrived at the screening after attending a book party at the Standard for "The Drop 10 Diet" by Lucy Danziger, editor in chief of Self magazine. Close

Film press agent Peggy Siegal and actor John Turturro. Siegal arrived at the screening after attending a book party... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Tony Lo Bianco, an actor, writer and producer, is working on a one-man show about Fiorello LaGuardia. Close

Tony Lo Bianco, an actor, writer and producer, is working on a one-man show about Fiorello LaGuardia.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Tovah Feldshuh, who is scheduled to perform "Golda's Balcony" in Las Vegas on Sunday, and Marsha Klein. Close

Tovah Feldshuh, who is scheduled to perform "Golda's Balcony" in Las Vegas on Sunday, and Marsha Klein.

Last night I watched “We Have a Pope” in a private screening room on Park Avenue, with playwright Neil Simon and actors Tovah Feldshuh and Josh Mostel. Then I met the film’s director, Nanni Moretti, and his girlfriend, Chiara Palmieri, over dinner at Desmond’s.

The comedy-drama, made in Italy, requires an appreciation for the absurdity of cardinals playing in a volleyball tournament at the Vatican, relishing every “punto.”

“That scene alone was worth its price in gold,” said Feldshuh, tucked into a white banquette at Desmond’s with a plate of greens and burrata in front of her.

The cardinals -- from Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia -- are sequestered at the Vatican because the man they’ve elected pope, played by Michel Piccoli, has been unable to address the faithful from the balcony on St. Peter’s Square.

A papal adviser brings in a psychiatrist to help. The pope flees, taking up with a troupe of actors rehearsing Chekhov.

“I loved when he was walking on the street by himself,” actor John Turturro said sitting across from Moretti at Desmond’s. “It shows how the pope, or the president or any world leader, how isolated they are from the world. Celebrities also suffer somewhat from that.”

Had he himself ever had a job offer he didn’t want? “Working in an office all day,” Turturro said.

Bible Diagnosis

Moretti, president of the jury for the 2012 Cannes film festival, plays the psychiatrist. On screen he tries to console the cardinals by reading a passage from the Bible describing the symptoms of depression -- his diagnosis for the pope.

Moretti’s own advice for fighting the blues, speaking through a translator: “Play sports, go to the movies and eat chocolate.”

Moretti said he likes playing tennis and he used to play water polo.

“We Have a Pope” will probably make about $1 million in the U.S., said Ryan Werner, Sundance Selects marketing and publicity executive.

“That’s the goal for a foreign film,” he added, though he noted some recent aberrations: “Pina,” the Wim Wenders documentary about dancer-choreographer Pina Bausch, has made $3 million. The Iranian film “The Separation,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, has made $6 million.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

-- Editors: Jeffrey Burke, Lili Rosboch.

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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