Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Italy/France, 2012. Fandango, Archimede, Le Pacte, Garance Capital, Rai Cinema, Soficinéma 7, Coficup, Cinémage 6, Canal+, Intesa San Paolo, Regione Lazio. Story by Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Screenplay by Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Braucci, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso. Cinematography by Marco Onorato. Produced by Matteo Garrone, Domenico Procacci. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Paolo Bonfini. Costume Design by Maurizio Millenotti. Film Editing by Marco Spoletini. Cannes Film Festival 2012. Toronto International Film Festival 2012.
Matteo Garrone follows Gomorrah with another unsparing look at contemporary life, this time examining the madness of celebrity culture. Luciano is a Neapolitan fish merchant with an unwavering devotion to his family who auditions for the Italian version of the reality series Big Brother at a shopping mall to make his daughters happy. When he finds out that he is being asked for a callback at Rome’s Cinecitta studios, the anticipation begins to build and his life is transformed. Just the possibility of getting on to a television series becomes his obsession as he sells his business and focuses all his energy on waiting for that blessed phone call. He also becomes paranoid that the producers are sending spies on a daily basis to watch his life and judge his morals, so he starts giving his possessions away in plain sight of anyone who will watch and, generally, starts driving his family completely crazy. The film moves frenetically between gritty, hand-held sequences of a most breathtaking energy and moments of color-saturated, garish images that suggest the fantasy world he is dreaming of. It’s reminiscent of Visconti’s Bellissima or a host of Fellini’s later films as it zeros in on celebrity culture, Italian style, and asks what the limelight holds for people that they would destroy their lives for something that is empty at its core (Big Brother is not exactly the Nobel prize, after all; it’s not even the Cannes Film Festival). The message is blatantly obvious from the opening scene of the film, and the commentary is as subtle as being slapped in the face with one of Luciano’s fish. This does not make it a pain to sit through, quite the opposite actually, but the film never reveals anything particularly profound.