Matteo Garrone’s smart follow-up to ‘Gomorrah’ blends gentle satire and neorealism into a surprisingly touching sideways look at our celebrity-wanabee-culture and the transformation of TV into a quasi-religion.
A film that depicts the unreality of ‘reality TV’ takes on an altogether different reality in the outstanding central performance of Aniello Arena, the former Mafia hit man, currently serving a life sentence for his part in a triple gangland homicide but released on special licence to appear in the film following his eye-catching performances for the prison theatre company. Encountering the outside world for the first time in twenty years, Arena channels his unforced wide-eyed fascination onto his character’s childlike obsession with moving in the opposite direction towards confinement in the Big Brother house. It is one of those rare moments when the filmmaker simply has to let the camera roll and catch something magical and unexpected in front of the lens, trusting entirely on his instincts.
Arena plays Luciano, a likeable rogue, who runs a fish stall in a Naples market when not operating a ‘kitchen robot’ scam that seems more trouble than it was worth. He fancies himself as a performer but is ready to call time on an occasional amateur drag act, which had long since outlived its welcome. And then, a chance encounter with Enzo, an idolised Big Brother contestant with instant christian name celeb status, gets him thinking.
Luciano has a screen predecessor in ‘Rupert Pumpkin’ from Martin Scorsese’s once overlooked comic masterpiece, ‘The King Of Comedy’, one made all the more obvious from Garrone comparing Arena’s performance to Robert De Niro. His blind faith in making the show and the way that he latches onto the talentless Enzo, almost to the point of stalking, echo Pumpkin’s futile pursuit of Jerry Langford in the name of a fame obsession. But Luciano is more extreme, going beyond delusion to paranoia, with Arena effortlessly switching emotion, balancing comedy and pathos and making the most of his intriguing face – in truth, we cannot take our eyes off it – in transforming cringeworthy moments into something far more meaningful.
With a sleight of hand, Garrone places Reality TV into a broader historical context, as the tip of the iceberg that sees a shift from the sacred to the profane in the Italian mindset. Superbly conceived, Luciano takes on the role of a modern day saint, giving away his worldly goods as a symbolic sacrifice to the TV Gods that he is convinced are watching his every move. When, in the closing scenes, he heads off uninvited to the Big Brother house during a torch-lit Good Friday service, his conversion from one form of worship to another is complete.
Veteran cinematographer, Marco Onorato, returns from ‘Gomorrah’, for which he won an Italian Golden Globe, and various other Garrone features, and provides a masterclass in fusing set pieces and impromptu moments as part of the film’s overall form. Watch out for an incredible establishing shot in the first sequence to rival the masters of Italian modernism in its masterful design and execution.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukdoxycycline buy
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, it is the second time in four years that Garrone has picked up the most prestigious prize at Cannes after the Palme d’Or.