Paolo Sorrentino‘s Il Divo (MPI, 4.24) is an immaculate, highly stylized film about former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and his political career, particularly the events that led to revelations about his ties to the Italian mafia and his reported complicity in the murder of a journalist.

I saw it last year in Cannes, and my immediate reaction was basically (a) “a first-rate political drama but probably too Italian to play in the U.S.” and (b) “a brilliant Andreotti performance by Toni Servillo.” I’ll be seeing it again on 4.14 at a special tastemaker screening in midtown Manhattan. MPI is the U.S. distributor, but Focus Features chief James Schamus will be hosting.

Il Divo opened in Italy a few days after its 5.23.09 bow in Cannes. Most of the rest of the world saw it last summer and last fall. Now it’s finally opening here.

Some films are like fruit. They need to be picked when they achieve ripeness, and if you wait too long to eat them they’ll have a diminished quality — they’ll feel too soft and won’t taste as good. Too much time and dust and delay dilutes the potency. You have to see it in a relatively fresh state.

Of course, some movies age well, like wine, and when you wind up seeing them two or five or ten years after their initial theatrical release you sip them and go “aaahhh” — excellent! So is Il Divo fruit or wine? Maybe it’s both. I haven’t decided yet.

A friend thinks I’m a bit off on my shelf-life ttheory. “Many films have come out a year after their Cannes premieres — The Wind That Shakes The Barley (which did very well here), The Last Mistress, Flight of the Red Balloon. I could understand where you’re coming from if Il Divo was a film that was so of-the-moment that its topicality or resonance would have really diminished over time (an Iraq-related film for instance) but Il Divo‘s themes of political power and corruption are pretty evergreen. And its formal brilliance can never age”