Matteo Garrone

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

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Matteo Garrone

Terra di Mezzo (1996)

Ospiti/ Guests (1998)

Estate Romana/ Roman Summer (2000)

L'Imbalsamatore/ The Embalmer (2002)

Primo Amore/ First Love (2003)

Gomorra/ Gomorrah (2008)

By comparison with its predecessor, Reality (2012) is a lightweight film. Garrone aptly quotes some of the Italian masters, notably Fellini (the grotesque first scene) and caustic apologues of the gutters such as Ettore Scola's Brutti, Sporchi e Cattivi/ Ugly, Dirty and Bad and Luigi Comencini's Scopone Scientifico/ Scientific Cardplayer. But mostly his tale is an inversion of themes of the media-dominated society. The protagonist is obsessed by media-channeled stardom just like Scorsese's The King of Comedy but the protagonist's role model here is a pathetic loser, a man who enjoyed a brief moment of fame and now thrives as a disco dancer. The surveillance that is painfully real in films such as Tony Scott's Enemy of the State (1998) here is purely imagined, and actually desired: the tragedy is not that there is pervasive surveillance around the protagonist, but that there is none. The lugubrious madness of this ordinary, low-caste citizen is delivered via very long mobile shots that provide a wide-range view of the situation, sometimes from above, even aerial, and in vivid fairy-tale colors.

A horse-driven coach enters a palace, welcomed by servants wearing Renaissance costumes. It is the scene for a pompous wedding. Two opposite characters have been invited: Enzo, who has become a tv star after playing a role in the tv reality show "Big Brother", and Luciano, a fishmonger who also performs dressed like a drag queen. Luciano is excited to meet Enzo and clearly jealous of his fame. Back home in their poor neighborhood Maria and Luciano run a little scam: they get poor people a robot at discount prices, then buy it from them and then resell them at a profit. Luciano and his cousin Michele have to deal with an elderly woman who swears she never received the robot. After forcing her out of the church where she is praying, Luciano eventually finds the robot hidden in her house. While Luciano is enrolling another elderly woman for their scam, Maria and the children are at the shopping mall where "Big Brother" is carrying out auditions. The children want dad to rush to the mall and do the audition but he shows up three hours late. Nonetheless he sees Enzo and begs Enzo and he begs Enzo to help get an audition. Luciano is at the fish market, where he runs the stand with his cousin Michele, when he gets the call that he has been selected for the audition at the studios. When he comes back, the neighborhood gives him a hero's welcome. Everybody thiks he'll soon be a star. Luciano is anxious about getting the phone call from the studios that he has been selected for the show, and begins to suspect that strangers around him are spying on him on behalf of the show. Luciano gets nervous about their robot scam and stops doing it. The wife is terrified that they might go to jail for fraud, but he only thinks about the show. Now he wants to sell the fish stand, certain that he will have better chances without it, and certain that, once a star, he will be able to afford a much better life. Michele is not convinced but nothing can stop Luciano. Luciano keeps waiting for the phone call that will change his life. Finally the call arrives... but it's a friend playing a cruel prank on him. Luciano is beginning to understand that he has not been selected for the show. He goes to a disco where Enzo is the main performing in front of an ecstatic crowd, and then crawls down the air ducks into the men's restrooms to talk to Enzo. Enzo, afraid of the maniac, reassures him. But the tv show begins and the family watches live the presentation of the new line-up, and there is no sign that they want Luciano at any point in time. However, the host says that two more contestants will be introduced later in the show, so there is still hope. And then a new strategy forms in his mind: to become such a good, noble person that the tv show will want him. Thus Luciano offers food to a beggar whom he had insulted in the past, fearing the beggar might be working as an observer for the show. On the way home from work Maria sees people walking away with her belongings: Luciano is giving everything away as charity, convinced that the people of the show are watching him and judging him. Maria yells at him that he's out of his mind, but he continues. In the morning there is a little crowd of beggars under Lucian's window, waiting for more charity. Maria tries in vain to send them away, but Luciano keeps calling them back. The neighbors witness the brawl between Maria and Luciano, with Luciano screaming that she's trying to ruin his chanes. Maria leaves him, taking the children with her. The relatives find Luciano staring at a cricket that he suspects could be a planted camera. He stops two women at a cemetery and argues with them, assuming that they are agents of the tv show. The old ladies think that he is trying to get into paradise and he understands that they are telling him that he will admitted to the show. He is beyond paranoid. He begins to spend days and nights in front of the tv station. The relatives bring Maria and Luciano together again, and now everybody accepts that he's gone crazy. He spends his time watching the reality show. The psychologist tells Maria that Luciano will recover only when the show ends. Maria is getting desperate. Helped by Michele, Luciano finds a way out of paranoia via the Catholic church. He is fascinated by its rituals. But he is not healed. At night, when everybody is sleeping, he leaves home and heads for the studios where the show is filmed and watches behind a glass wall. Then he walks straight into the area where the show takes place. And he starts laughing. And he lies there, by the pool, laughing, alone.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )