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Foreign Films > Gomorra (Matteo Garrone)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I finally watched this last night on Blu-ray: I ordered the Italian Import that thankfully has English subtitles. Babel-Fish is a godsend (thanks Douglas Adams!) when researching and ordering foreign releases. This review contains SPOILERS but I don't think the knowledge will lessen your appreciation of this very good film. I almost wrote "enjoyment"...but I don't believe you enjoy this type of film.

GOMORRA (Matteo Garrone, 2008, Italy) The Camorra is a brotherhood of incestuous violence, ruled by a monetary monarchy whose goal is absolute power by any means necessary. GOMORRA deconstructs the gangster genre, raping the glamorous Hollywood charade: this is a dirty, bloody conflict, a war without boundaries, people without morals or allegiance except to promote their own survival. Director Matteo Garrone’s cinema verite depicts the slums and filth of Naples, his technique eschews quick flashy gimmicks, which anchors our perspective into this decadent environment, and creates a palpable friction of bloodshed and adrenaline fear. The narrative is segmented into five characters which accomplishes two important goals: first, it allows us a visual access to disparate elements of the infernal workings of the Camorra syndicate; second, it lets the viewer step backwards and become observer without too much emotional investment into the characters. We feel almost numb to the violence and greed, rooted in the power of the almighty dollar, and we are able to distance ourselves and contemplate the film intellectually, to judge each situation and its implications. We see Marco and Ciro as unlikable punks who get what they deserve, but we also feel a pang of regret at their demise: after all, they are just products of a poisoned environment. Robert and Pasquale, though their stories never intertwine, are humanity’s hope: they walk away towards their own destiny, attempting to take control over their own lives, no longer indentured servants whose body is a machine at the mercy of a demagogue. A film of power and urgency, the film ends with Pasquale’s truck disappearing into the night, the long and winding road ahead, and a dire warning concerning the toxic organization whose infection continues to spread worldwide. (B+)


message 2: by Tom (new)

Tom | 4544 comments I'm looking forward to seeing this when it opens here in a couple of weeks. The trailer was really interesting.


message 3: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I think you'll find it very interesting. Like I said, it's difficult to enjoy this type of film, except in its technical and philosophical achievments/perspectives. This would have made my Top Ten list if I had seen it in time.


message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom | 4544 comments Saw GOMORRA yesterday, and liked it a good deal. Not a pretty or easy film, by any means whatsoever. Fascinating, troubling movie. One of the grittiest and ugliest films I've ever seen, expertly acted and made. For a change the shaky camerawork really genuinely adds to the "realism" of the film: it felt like a cinema verite masterpiece from some Italian Maysles.

I'll admit to some problems, though. I had a hard time following certain aspects of the plot(s), but I'm sure they'll become clearer after a second viewing.

The film resolutely avoids the usual cliches of the gangster film as practiced elsewhere. GOMORRA is getting a lot of attention for de-romanticizing the gangster film, although after such works as GOODFELLAS and THE SOPRANOS I'd say the genre had been pretty thoroughly de-romanticized already. What is unique about GOMORRA is the really appalling squalor in which these people live and do business, for the most part. There's none (or at least very very little) of the wealth on display in THE GODFATHER or GOODFELLAS or THE SOPRANOS.

Alex, the final shot you describe isn't the final shot in the film I saw. The final shot I saw yesterday was a bulldozer bearing away a couple of bodies, the carrier part of the bulldozer lifted up high as if it was carrying two trophies. I wonder if they re-edited the film for American theatrical release.


message 5: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Feb 22, 2009 01:08PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Hmmm...interesting. Tom, did the film finally fade to a black screen with a few paragraphs of text describing the crime syndicate's worldwide influence? The scene you describe comes earlier in the cut I saw: I believe it's the two boys who meet their cruel fate after they're lead into the trap. From your description, I'm sure the film has been re-edited for the US market...I wonder why? I don't believe it undermines the violent message of the narrative.
I'm glad you liked it:)


message 6: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 9618 comments i have to see this...thanks fellahs for the words...i'm inspired to check it out.


message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom | 4544 comments Alex, yes, the film cut rather jarringly to black with assorted bits of information about the Camorra's influence, immediately after the shot of the bulldozer carrying its grisly load. I actually prefer having the film end with this sequence, I'm glad they made the cut. I wonder what prompted it.


message 8: by Phillip (last edited Mar 13, 2009 01:31AM) (new)

Phillip | 9618 comments i just saw it, and it had the same ending that alex discussed...with pasquale driving the truck off into the night. interesting there are two prints floating around. i think i agree with tom - it felt like the film ended on the beach. i didn't need that last episode with pasqual to sum anything else up...it was clear the corruption with the trucking and the dumping of toxic materials wasn't going to disappear just because that other young man walked away from la vida loca. (although it was interesting to see that pasqual had been roped back into it after being shot up).

matteo garrone took a structure like you find in soderbergh's traffic, where there are multiple aspects of a central problem and and the film allows the viewers to explore all the parts in a sprawling whole. but in this case the direction didn't feel as self-conscious as traffic or as forced as other films with similar structures like babel or 21 grams. the gritty realism created an urgency and worked perfectly. along with the hand-held camera work that tom mentioned, there were also some fabulous tracking and crane shots. the camera always seemed to be doing the right thing throughout.

the apartment structure as a set worked really well, and reminded me of the decalogue in that way (using an apartment complex to serve as a microcosm for a large societal portrait). the acting was outstanding, totally natural, and the portrayal of these young people following a dead end road to nowhere was devastating.

it felt a bit long for a film that clocks in at 137 minutes. and yet a second viewing would help to see how all the pieces fit together in the narrative whole. like life itself, it's hard to see the big picture when you're intently focused on the present, and gomorra keeps you pretty well riveted from beginning to end.


message 9: by Tom (new)

Tom | 4544 comments Philip, did you see it on DVD, or in a theatre? This is very strange, the alternate endings...


message 10: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 9618 comments i saw it at the elmwood theater, which sort of specializes in second run films....i agree...strange; but i really enjoyed the film.


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