Tag: matteo garrone


Dogman (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★

Matteo Garrone’s enthralling “Dogman” tells the story of a man who runs a dog grooming shop located in a poor suburb in Rome. His name is Marcello (Marcello Fonte) and he is one of the most well-liked man in the neighborhood due his mind-mannered personality and appearance. But Marcello runs a side business of selling cocaine in order to afford mini-vacations with his daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria), who lives with her mother.

This attracts the attention of cocaine addict and brutish Simoné (Edoardo Pesce), quite possibly the most disliked man in the neighborhood—so much so that Marcello has heard fellow shopkeepers conspiring to hire men from out of town to kill Simoné. Reporting Simoné’s illicit activities to the police is no longer an option because he would simply go to jail for a few months and he’d be back in the streets. A more… permanent solution is preferred.

Told with admirable focus and clarity, this character-driven drama inspires the viewer to look closely at the subjects from a humanist perspective. It is interesting that although it is composed of elements most often found in suspense-thrillers—the put upon mousy man, the desperation of his lifestyle on top his impoverished neighborhood, the thought that perhaps it is time for others to begin respecting him for all the things he feels he has done for so-called friends—the material never goes for the easy catharsis. As the subject matter begins to move toward even darker territory, it builds and builds until the tension is so high, it feels as though every small happening could force the dam to break.

The work begins with a keen eye for characterization. Notice that in the first five minutes, it appears as though we are simply following Marcello’s day-to-day activities: at work, out in the field playing football with the guys, at home while eating dinner with his dog. But look more carefully. There is emphasis on Marcello’s body size. He is small compared to the dogs he grooms, small next to the men attempting to get the ball from him, small still next to his very own normal-sized dog. In every aspect of this man’s life, we see and we feel as though he is small. He knows it. And so he compensates by being friendly and likable. People regarding him as something else other than small is so important to Marcello. This is the core of the story.

It is not a revenge picture or a crime picture; to categorize it as such is, I think, to reduce what the movie is truly about. In its essence, it is a drama with deep thoughts, longings, and humanity. Fonte plays the Marcello with a powerful magnetism. At times he reminded me of Steve Buscemi without the comic quirks. You cannot help but look at him—and then through him. Credit goes to screenwriters Ugo Chiti, Massimo Gaudioso, and director Garrone for giving us a character who possesses many layers. There is even a distinct sadness, maybe a loneliness, to Marcello that he is not above wanting to be liked by Simoné the bully. Fonte and Pesce share excellent chemistry especially when the two are together in one frame. Simoné is so big that I flinched at the thought of our protagonist being so close to a hot-tempered man of that physicality. All it would take is one punch thrown by Simoné to take Marcello’s head off.

“Dogman” is unconcerned when it comes to providing a typical character arc which may likely put off others—but that is exactly what I appreciated most. As a result, the protagonist feels fresh in that his actions are often unpredictable, at times questionable—like an actual person trying to survive in an impoverished community. I wished that we saw more of the seaside village because the intention is for the environment to have critical role in how the main character regards himself, but almost every other element is so strong, it is without question the film deserves to be seen by those yearning for something different and worthwhile.


Gomorrah (2008)
★ / ★★★★

Five groups of people were the focus of “Gomorra” (or “Gomorrah”), directed by Matteo Garrone, and, unfortunately, none of them worked. I expected a lot from this movie because I assumed that since it was over two hours long, it would really have a chance to explore the psychologies and motivations of the characters. Not to mention it received glowing reviews from critics and audiences alike. I should have known to lower my expectations because I just don’t have good experiences with movies that show people being involved or growing up in a life of crime (like the overrated “City of God”–a decent movie but overrated nonetheless). With such movies, I feel like internal exploration is often sacrificed for grittiness, griminess and melodrama when instead all of those elements should be working together to make a trascendent, if not moving, picture. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember the names of the characters in this movie because I was just so uninterested with was happening on screen. In my opinion, the characters got what they deserved in the end (whatever they may be) because throughout the movie’s running time, they often thrusted themselves in unnecessarily dangerous situations. I read one critic mention that these people do not have a choice in being involved with the life of crime. I completely disagree. We have a choice to not dump toxic waste in illegal areas which pose a threat to the health of others; we have a choice to not put a gun on someone else’s ahead and pressing the trigger; we have a choice to not be chained to the bad reputations of our neighborhoods and strive for something more in life. I know this because I know how it’s like to grow up in a poor neighborhood. Another element that really bothered me was that the disparate stories never really aligned. More than halfway through, I constantly wondered where the story was going or if it was even planning on going anywhere. I feel like the picture had some sort of a thesis deep inside its walls but it was never really tackled head-on until those notes appeared prior to the credits. This was definitely a different movie-going experience and I would have liked it a lot more if it had flowed better. I’m not saying that it should have conformed to the Hollywood standards. In fact, I would have disliked it just as much if it did. But a chaotic storytelling that confuses its audiences and not letting them in is not a trait of a good film. There were some glimmer of potential here and there (and that’s pushing it) but those weren’t enough to draw me in and keep me interested. To be honest, I felt like watching it was a waste of my two hours.