Cannes update: Italy’s ‘Gomorra’ wows ’em

Posted by · 3:10 am · May 20th, 2008

(EDITOR’S NOTE: New Cannes poll in the sidebar as of this morning, FYI.)

We’re at the halfway point now, and this year’s Cannes Festival seems to have been a pretty staid affair so far. With the dust settled, “Blindness” appears to have been labelled an honourable disappointment. Meanwhile, some of the big arthouse names in the competition are widely agreed to be treading water.

Walter Salles’ “Linha de Passe” appears to be worthwhile, but hasn’t generated the critical heat of “Central Station” or “The Motorcycle Diaries.” “Lorna’s Silence,” the latest from Belgium’s hitherto unimpeachable Dardenne brothers, here aiming for a record third Palme d’Or, has garnered respectable notices (and an outright pan from Jeff Wells), but doesn’t seem to be up to the standard of “Rosetta” or “The Son.”

There have been some international successes. “Three Monkeys,” the latest from Turkey’s great Nuri Bilge Ceylan, has gathered predictably excellent reviews, of which The Hollywood Reporter’s take (a “brilliant, gorgeously visual film”) is typical. If I were to bet on a Palme d’Or winner (always a silly thing to do), this would be it – though I fear this will have as much trouble crossing over to the US and UK markets as Ceylan’s previous work.

One of the real breakout films of the festival so far, however, appears to be Italian director Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorra,” an intricate documentary-style look at the Camorra crime empire of Naples, based on a bestselling expose by Roberto Saviano. Amid generally enthusiastic reviews, The Hollywood Reporter states:

Powerful, stripped to its very essence and featuring a spectacular cast (of mostly non-professionals), Matteo Garrone’s sixth feature film “Gomorra” goes beyond Tarantino’s gratuitous violence and even Scorsese’s Hollywood sensibility in depicting the everyday reality of organized crime’s foot soldiers.

In his always-worthwhile Cannes roundup, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw concurs:

The competition films have been more than a little upstaged by Matteo Garrone’s Gomorra, a gut-wrenchingly brutal film about notorious Naples gangsters, the Camorra. The title’s twist implies the whole area is sunk in a kind of self-created hell, almost literally, since the mobsters are responsible for unsafe nuclear dumping. Perhaps it tells us nothing we don’t already know about gangsters, but there’s no denying the film’s power.

I confess I am not very familiar with Garrone’s work, but I, for one, am intrigued by this. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. From the sounds of things, if the film finds the right buyer, there could be “City of God”-style crossover potential here. Or nothing. You never can tell at Cannes.

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