Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Camorra, Gomorrah

The Boy was recovered enough to take a trip to the movies, though the pickings are slim, with the Oscar films still clogging up the screens. It's hard to sell even the high rated films that are out now: Two Lovers, Bob Funk, Medicine for Melancholy (some asshole ripping off Bradbury's title again), and Must Read After My Death ("Imagine if Revolutionary Road had been a documentary!"). There are a few mainstream releases out we haven't seen, but he's very particular about those. (I don't know that he makes the distinction in his mind, but he's at an age where he has an aversion to stupid, and that rules out a whole lot of movies.)

Then there's Gomorra, a mixed-reviewed gangster flick about the Naples crime syndicate. Well, The Boy likes himself a gangster flick, though I myself run cold on them.

And, well, it's a sprawling mess of a film, unfocused and a bit hard to follow, not because any individual scene is complicated but how they tie together is. The movie concerns: A gang war with "secessionists" trying to split from the Camorra, a boy who wants to join the gang, a couple of phenomenally stupid young men who are trying to be independent outlaws, a dress counterfeiting operation, a toxic waste dump operation, and a man who either collects the protection money or distributes retired gangster's pensions (or both).

You could've made this a miniseries, with the six stories each being its own 22-minute episode--or you could have fleshed them out into 48 minutes for an hour show. This would've worked better, I think, because the stories didn't really overlap, so telling them cut into pieces just made them hard to follow, without any added dramatic benefit.

The movie runs two-and-a-quarter hours, but even so, you don't get a satisfying resolution to the young kid's story. Here's how it could've been better: The boy delivers groceries to a woman who is also chummy with the money carrier, and has some connection with the secessionists, or at least is imagined to. The boy is also trying to get chummy with the local, low-level Camorra thugs. This woman could've served as the focal point of the whole story, crossing paths with the tailor and the toxic waste managers--I think she was actually connected to one of the idiots doing random thuggery.

She could've been a good anchor for the story which, unfortunately, comes off as sort of "inside baseball".

There is no beauty in this film; where the Godfather saga dressed up mob antics in gorgeous colors and impeccable fashion in opulent surroundings, the ruffians in this film wear cheap track suits or t-shirts celebrating sports teams of other countries, and live in housing that would embarrass trailer trash. I don't recall any music whatsoever. There's no dramatic lighting and the camera work is straightforward, though fortunately avoiding the dread shaky-cam.

I suppose then, this is a "realistic" film. But a little artifice could've gone a long way to make it a truly great film.

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