Directed by Matteo Garrone
Matteo Garrone is a compelling Italian director who always brings an authentic ‘mafiosi’ flavor to his thoughtful films, exception made to Tale Of Tales, an incursion into fantasy/adventure, which deviates from his habitually native topics. His bleak, lowlife crime drama Dogman is an excellent addition to a worthy filmography that also includes Gomorrah and Reality.
Co-written by Garrone and his frequent collaborators Ugo Chiti and Massimo Gaudioso, the story has Marcello (Marcello Fonte) at its center, a gentle and patient dog groomer whom everyone in the neighborhood is fond of. However, by looking at his smiling face and maladroit expression, you wouldn’t say he hides a dark secret. Marcello sells cocaine on the side in order to support his beloved daughter Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria).
Despite the worries of his closest friends - bar owner Francesco (Francesco Acquaroli) and gold jewelry proprietor Franco (Adamo Dionisi) - regarding Simone (Edoardo Pesce), an unruly, violent, addictive former boxer who terrorizes the neighborhood, he still wants to be his friend. Even when forced to join the thug in robberies without being paid. This sort of fascination for an ungrateful criminal who constantly takes advantage of his fragile posture and good nature is the film’s most difficult part to cope with.
When Simone engenders a plan to rob Francesco’s gold from the inside of Dogman, Marcello’s store, the things change radically. The robbery is sloppily executed and Marcello is left in a very delicate position: he whether takes the responsibility for the infraction or denounces Simone to the police. The option of spending one year in prison for his ‘friend’ wasn’t surprising at all. Yet, it will make him tougher and resolute in his future decisions, which include demanding the respect of the beast he covered up.
Fonte gives a blistering central performance and is deservedly rewarded in Cannes, winning in the Best Actor category. Beautifully shot, this character study fascinates in an almost perverse way, building up adequate levels of tension throughout and bursting with disturbing scenes of violence. It is also a tale of solitude, equally tragic and funny, heavy and whimsical.
While the Italian cinema gives signs to come back to life, Dogman is a great choice if you’re sick of showy crime trifles that arrive from Hollywood on a regular basis.