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Thread: DOGMAN (Matteo Garrone 2018)

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    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    DOGMAN (Matteo Garrone 2018)



    Power games

    "Dogman" is the name on a place of business run by a little man called Marcello (Marcello Fonte), the unique and strangely complex protagonist of this hard and dry little film. The business is located in a place of huddled buildings like broken down castles in a desolate far-out urban wasteland somewhere near Naples so ugly it's beautiful, so abandoned-looking it's unreal, but also incredibly photogenic. The Danish cinematographer Nicolaj Brüel, who's obviously up to giving these places their due, is one of the stars of Garrone's show, though Garrone also did a lot of the handheld camerawork himself. The film is shot strikingly with anamorphic lenses, their use informed by Garrone's sense that this is essentially a Western. But it's also obviously a film about petty criminals and dogs, about the corruption and lack of moral code of criminals, the cowardice and bravery of the small and weak, and about how men are worse then dogs when they start becoming canine-like.

    In the opening scene, in a rude cement and metal structure, we come upon Marcello washing a large and hostile dog, several actually. It's here at once that Fonte, who got the Best Actor award at Cannes, takes complete command of the film, as well as of his canine charges. He uses pet names and coaxing tones, tidbit rewards to calm them. He also makes remarkable use of water from a hose and a power dryer, which seems to calm the animal as it fluffs up his shaggy coat, now softened by washing. Dog grooming is Marcello's front occupation. On the quiet he deals coke, which endears him to a small pack of local robbers and thieves. As he is coaxing with the dogs he is cowering with the crooks, who accept him condescendingly as a kind of mascot. On the periphery is a big violent thug called Simone (the terrifying Edoardo Pesce), whom he plays up to while turning him into a raving coke head and, more and more, a mad dog.

    Simone's violence, impatience and greed are juice that feeds this tale and lead it agreeably toward disaster. With the dogs Marcello is masterful, coaxing, and fearless. He cowers under the violence and threats of Simone, but also seems able to endure any amount of pain. His other love is his young daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria). He is separated from her mother, so every meet-up with Alida is special and he is adoring and sweet with her. They go on expensive diving trips, funded by the coke dealing.

    The irony of Marcello's contradictions emerges most clearly when a few criminals, including Simone, force him to be the driver of his own little panel truck for delivering the dogs he grooms in a robbery. When in the getaway he learns they've stuffed a noisy chihuahua into the freezer to shut him up, Marcello must sneak back to the burglarized house on his own to rescue the dog and bring it back to life. It's a jaw-dropping scene. The whole sequence of robbery and rescue is a primer on Marcello's cowardice and bravery. He can do dangerous things, but he can't stand up to the hoodlums in the neighborhood. On weekends he plays five-man football with them. He is strong for a little man and nimble like a monkey. He has a sickly smile, haunted eyes, and a mobile face. He is always in motion. Until, at last, he is still.

    The burglary nets Marcello little reward, less because he trades the few jewels they give him with the gold dealer next door, nothing for the diamonds, so they net him only €150, a piddling amount toward the next trip with Alida.

    The other local hoodlums, Marcello's pals, see Simone as a mad dog in need of being put down. While Marcello has a special warped complicity with Simone, he also wishes to play up to the group. Simone is in a drive-by shooting but Marcelo takes him to his (Simone's) mother (the powerful Nunzia Schiano) , who throws his coke stash on the floor, giving him a brutal dressing down for not kicking his habit. His brutality came from home. The day comes when Simone forces Marcello into complicity in a terrible crime against the neighbors, and Marcello takes the rap and goes away for a year. Does Simone reward this? Not willingly.

    Obviously the warped and unjust relationship is going to lead to a violent end. Finally Marcello is not just changed by his jail time but increasingly strange. But the life and the whole film setting was pleasingly mad and unreal from the start. A fresh and intense piece of work in a deeply dark vein in which Garrone shows more maturity and command than ever before and makes extraordinary use of an unknown actor whom he has made into a kind of Italian Buster Keaton (crossed with Peter Lorre, David Erlich has said). Fonte is extraordinary, and one hopes to see him again soon.


    Dogman, 102 mins.debuted in Competition at Cannes, where Marcello Fonte won the Best Actor award. About two dozen other international festivals including Telluride, Toronto, Vancouver, and Busan. Watched on a screener prior to the April. 12, 2019 New York and Los Angeles US theatrical release. Metascore 72 with some very negative reviews; AlloCiné press rating a much higher 3.9 from French critics.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-17-2019 at 07:18 PM.


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