(No longer in theaters)
Dec 19, 2008
I was stoked for Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah, a far bloodier critique of capitalism. Based on a nonfiction book by Roberto Saviano, the movie centers on the gangster-centric economy of Naples, a hub of drugs, high-fashion sweatshops, and toxic waste. In Saviano’s excitable yet exhaustively detailed first-person account, there are no traces of glamour in the bosses of the Camorra crime network, who style themselves after Hollywood gangsters but operate with the ruthless efficiency of totalitarian dictators to control wages and suppress dissent. Garrone sets the film in a vast, crumbling, cement public-housing project that has become a kind of narcotics warehouse, and he skips among seven protagonists—including a 13-year-old who falls in with low-level enforcers; a gifted tailor who risks his life (for money) to teach the art of haute-couture knockoffs; and a couple of loose-cannon punks who think they can get away with pilfering guns from mobsters.
Garrone’s camera studies the everyday business of Naples, training the same impassive camera on brutal murders, sewing patterns, and children tapped to drive trucks full of deadly chemicals. The poison of the system gets under your skin. But Gomorrah isn’t memorable. The structure feels random, and the characters remain at arm’s length. Next to HBO’s The Wire, which depicted an enormous financial ladder and also brought to life the characters on every rung, the movie is small potatoes: excellent journalism, so-so art.
Timed to coincide with the release of Gomorrah, BAMcinemathék will be hosting a retrospective of director Matteo Garrone’s work from February 12 to 17.