Wednesday, April 01, 2009

GOMORRAH: The Film Babble Blog Review

GOMORRAH (Dir. Matteo Garrone, 2008) Talk about hype! The trailer for this Italian film is filled with raving quotes such as: "Stunning...A reinvention of the mafioso movie" and "the greatest mafia movie ever made...strips every last pretense of romanticism from 'The Godfather' saga." Quite daunting statements especially when considering THE GODFATHER itself was credited for stripping away previous romantic pretensions from the old Hollywood James Cagney-era gangster films. But that's just the thing, THE GODFATHER as such created a new romanticism involving family and tradition that has thrived through later day mob classics including Scorsese's * GOODFELLAS and had a healthy run on HBO'S The Sopranos. That the ambitious GOMORRAH is being sold as a shattering of these modern mob movie myths isn't exactly false advertising but it's certainly an injustice to this fine yet somewhat inaccessible film. In a strained structure that makes the complex workings of SYRIANA look like a walk in the park, there are several knotted threads to follow involving a group of characters in Naples connected to the Camorra - the real life criminal organization older than any other in Italy. In one major thread, Gianfelice Imparato plays Don Ciro, a mid-level money carrier who defects from his clan amid a hairy dispute. Another thread involves Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) as street toughs who steal guns from Camorra members and amuse themselves by firing off rounds at the riverbank in only their underwear making for a striking image that has been rightly exploited in the film's ads. Other threads involve the 13 year old Totò (Nicolo Manta), who falls in with gang members, and Carmine Paternoser rebelling against his boss illegally dumping toxic waste. How all these tangents come together I'm still trying to work out but perhaps absolute clarity is not director Garrone's objective. Based on the bestselling book by Robert Saviano, GOMORRAH is the result of the work of no less than 6 screenwriters so it's no wonder that it can be a cinematic ball of confusion. Despite this, there is much to recommend here - the washed out docu-drama feel, the killings (or hits) are as piercing as movie simulations can be, and there is realistic grit replacing the glamour of former gangster epics even if the film doesn't surpass their grandeur like the over hyperbolic critics quoted in the trailer claim. However the lack of strong characters coupled with an annoying soundtrack which sounds like cellphone ring-tone flourishes accompanied by a techno beat keep this from a true breakthrough of mafia movie re-imagining. These are my first impressions though for I feel it deserves a deeper look. As it stands now I don't think it would make my mafia movie top ten (were I to make such a list) but depending to how it ages and holds up to repeated viewings, it might just make it in one day. * Martin Scorsese is credited as the Presenter: USA release of GOMORRAH - something the trailer is actually wise to hype up. More later...

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