The tone of Paolo Sorrentino‘s HBO series, The Young Pope, which I saw two nights ago, is arch and poised and dryly perverse. It isn’t a flow-along thing as much as a series of carefully stylized bite-sized vignettes. The mood and pacing reminded me right away of Sorrentino’s Il Divo, which I saw in Cannes eight years ago. The Young Pope is beautifully designed and quite the Sorrentino immersion, but it’s a dish served cold.

There’s no believing that Jude Law‘s Pope Pius XIII (aka Lenny Belardo from New York City) could ever be elected Pope — you just have to accept Law’s beastly pontiff as a metaphor for something stirring right now, something toxic in the air. He’s partly House speaker Paul Ryan, partly Michael Corleone, partly Donald Trump if he’d been elected in ’84 or ’88, partly the screaming pope in Francis Bacon‘s “Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X.”

Law is Damien Thorn, a Pope with claws, who adores power, a guy who likes cigarettes, who possibly likes to fuck pretty women (I haven’t seen but have heard this) and who could have fit right in with the fascist ogres in Pasolini’s Salo if a well-oiled time machine could be found.