Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
a fishmonger, reality is about as real as it gets for the hardworking Luciano. Unfortunately, he is seduced by the lure of
hyper-unreal reality shows’ fifteen minutes of fame in Matteo Garrone’s Reality (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
it is not even his idea. Attending a big
extravagant Long Island style wedding, Luciano encounters Enzo, a former
Italian Big Brother champion making a
paid appearance. An offhand invitation
to the show’s Naples try-outs leads to a formal invitation to audition in Rome
(at the celebrated Cinecitta Studio, no less).
Convinced he nailed it, Luciano returns home like a conquering
hero. His neighbors start treating him
like a celebrity, anticipating his impending television notoriety. However, as the start of the show’s new
season approaches with no word coming from the producers, Luciano becomes
increasingly erratic, paranoid, and depressed.
not explicitly about reality television, Matteo’s film makes the Italian
version of Big Brother look
particularly gross. Of course, nearly
any program would be just as seductive.
Still, it is hard to believe a loving husband and father could get so
far ahead of himself and fall apart so profoundly for so dubious prize. Whether we believe it or not, it is still
cringy to watch.
radically different in tone from Garrone’s previous, Gomorrah, he has not strayed far in terms of geography or
culture. Hardly Armani’s Italy, this is
a place where yellow tank tops with garish racing stripes do not look out of
place. Nonetheless, cinematographer
Marco Onorato frames some striking visuals, often evoking the great Italian cinema
masterworks of decades past.
Arena has a bit of that clown-who-can-make-you-cry thing going on as
Luciano. He certainly makes the audience
feel uncomfortable. Nando Paone is also memorably
understated and humane as Luciano’s pious partner, Michele, a notably
sympathetic Catholic character. However,
most of his family members are rather shticky stock figures that would fit
right into any film with the words “My Big Fat” in the title.
While it is disconcerting to watch Luciano
unravel, Reality never approaches the
level of a Twenty-First Century Network or
A Face in the Crowd. Co-written by Garrone, Maurizio Bruacci, Ugo
Chiti, and Massimo Gaudioso, Reality breaks
no new ground with its familiar brand of media criticism. We all get it, only too well. Nicely crafted but not nearly as deep as it presumes
to be, Reality opens tomorrow (3/15)
in New York at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Italian Cinema, Matteo Garrone