Saturday, September 6, 2014

TIFF 2014: Gomorrah

Gomorrah (Italy, 2014) directed by Stefano Sollima, 120 minutes, Scotiabank 1, 6.00p

Our first film at TIFF! What a great way to start ...

Tonight we saw the first two episodes of a twelve-part television series based on the eponymously named expose by the Italian journalist Roberto Saviano (not to be confused with the 2008 feature film by Matteo Garrone that premiered at TIFF in 2008). It exposes the Camorra in Napoli, better known as the the Neapolitan mafia. Variety described the series as Italy's answer to The Wire.

Gomorrah is miles away from it's first iteration - in tone, look and feel. It is slick, polished, frighteningly graphic in its depiction of these low rent gangsters operating under one Don Pietro Savastano (Fortunato Cerlino) who is at war with rival gangs in Napoli. Savastano resembles not the stereotypically imagined mafia don of a hundred bad gangster movies but, possibly more frighteningly, a particularly taciturn college professor on a very bad day. Banal, but vicious and evil nonetheless. Savastano is the sort of man who would bludgeon one of his men to death on the slightest whiff of possible treachery.  

Savastano is plagued by doubts about the capabilities of his pudgy, inept son Gennaro known as Genny (Salvatore Esposito) who desires power and prestige but lacks the ruthlessness and brains to retain the respect of his father's men.

Savastano then turns to for leadership to Ciro (Marco D'Amore), a handsome, highly intelligent thug who is nicknamed The Immortal for his uncanny ability to evade death despite the many attempts on his life by rival factions. He wants Ciro to toughen up Gennaro to prepare him for possible succession. Savastano has a gloomy premonition, fed by a paid source, that he will soon be betrayed by one of his men.

TIFF described the series as "Shakespearean in its dimension and in its archetypes" citing Savastano as the aging king, Genny as the weak heir, and mafia wife Imma (Maria Pia Calzone) as the scheming Lady MacBeth figure ... it has that and more. 

The Gomorrah in Italy is, as the director Stefano Sollima said at the screening, a byproduct of capitalism. It is, is it not, generally the dispossessed, the poor, the disadvantaged, and yes the sociopathic too, who turn to crime as a means of gaining wealth, women, prestige? All the "good" things that successful capitalism is meant to bring? It most certainly is. 

And another point that Sollima made: the mafia isn't an Italian phenomenon. It's a human phenomenon.  

Not to be missed: Roberto Saviano's non-fiction book by the same name. You may read a review of it here in a post I called My Mafia, Myself. 
Ciro (D'Amore) and Gennaro (Esposito)

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