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August 30, 2010

Gomorrah (2008)
Director: Matteo Garrone
Actors: Gianfelice Imparato, Ciro Petrone, Marco Macor

Synopsis: Various subplots concerning the role of the local mafia (the “Comorra”) in Neapolitan society.

Review: Amid what seems like universal praise from both critics and the paying public alike, I was mostly underwhelmed and unmoved by this seemingly coruscating portrait of the Comorra crime network in Naples. Although I understood the film’s necessarily wide canvas as it sort to depict the endemic impact of the Comorra’s reach through five parallel stories across its social strata, I felt as if the sheer literary weight of making these subplots all ‘mean something’ and buy into the central theme of waste and corruption, ultimately suffocated the film itself. The five segments all seemed too classically rhetorical to me, almost clichéd, as I was able to glean easily from the opening segments that quiet money-lender Don Ciro was going to have his conscience pricked, the two young ‘wiseguys’ were going to be hoisted by their own petard, and the young protégé dealing with the illegal toxic dumping was going to be the man who took a moral stand.

The sense that Gomorrah is a film that ‘thinks’ more than it ‘feels’ is embellished by its technique. Admittedly there is no melodramatic musical score, but there are other intellectually obvious effects such as the cinematographic trick that shows a close-up of young boys happily playing in a paddling pool, before the camera tracks back to reveal the pool situated on a roof of one of the crumbling Neapolitan tenement buildings that is teeming with armed gangsters. It is this sense that the filmmakers are continually trying to out their sprawling narrative’s dramatic subtext, rather than letting it breathe and lending it some grace, that left me feeling somewhat lukewarm by the final reel. (September 2009)

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