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If you've never seen Matteo Garrone's film, "Gommorah," you really should.
It's a Mafia movie, but not the way we've come to think of them over the years. Garrone made a film that captured a very organic, very lived-in ecosystem that is run by thugs and punks. "Gomorrah" plays like a refutation of every single movie every made that's made the criminals look good. The closest comparison I can make is "City Of God," the film that opened my eyes to how the favelas work and how society has reconfigured itself, leaving this lawless space to its own devices. The unobtrusive documentary-styled style he employed only added to the feeling of authenticity.
That was 2008, and since then Garrone's been radio silent. I saw his new film "Reality" at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and I liked it quite a bit. I called it the story of Job as told in the age of reality TV. His star, Aniello Arena, gives a remarkable performance as Luciano, an Italian guy whose dreams of appearing on Italy's "Big Brother" seem to vanishing a little more every day, and it's killing him. He's the family member who is always clowning around, cracking jokes, making his daughter laugh on her wedding day, He's a good and decent man with a small but respectable fish market, and he supplements that income with tiny scams on the side. He is a happy man, but all those jokes he cracks hide an ambition that eventually becomes fixated on this stupid TV show.
It's a timely film in that it deals with notions of fame in the Internet age, how long you can hold onto a dream before it becomes indistinguishable from mental illness, and the desire for fame for no reason besides being yourself on a TV show for a month. I have a feeling, though, that "Reality" will age well, because it's also rich in character and detail. I've been going nuts waiting on this one to arrive stateside so we can all have a conversation about it, and right now, you can see the trailer for the film on YouTube…
I hope you'll give this one a try if it opens near you, and if you aren't in one of the markets the film visits, then just file the title away for home video. "Reality" uses fiction to dig deeper than most documentaries can go, and it's worth digging into deeply.
"Reality" opens in limited release in NYC on March 15 and LA on March 22 , 2013. Want to know if/when it's playing near you? Check out this list.