Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Gomorrah: a look at the power of one mafia crime family (a scaled down "Godfather?)

The 2008 somewhat acclaimed (enough to win at Cannes) Italian film “Gomorrah” (or “Gomorra”, without the “h” in Italian), directed by Matteo Garrone and based on the book by Roberto Saviano (distributed by IFC in theaters and by the Criterion Collection on DVD – where was Sony Pictures on this one?), seems like a compact answer to the famous series “The Godfather”. But it is more a film like “Babel” or even “Traffic”, where somewhat distinct stories (five in this case, almost capable of treatment as separate short films, are linked to produce a cyclic film that is somewhat like a symphony in music. One even thinks of work like “The Decalogue” (by Krzysztof Kieslowski). Martin Scorsese in “presenter” of the USA release for the Independent Film Channel.

The title of the film is based on Camorra crime family in Naples and Caserta, and shows how dependent the ambition structure of ordinary people, especially young people in this film, is dependent on “the Family.”

The film wanders into some very hip current issues. There is a sequence where a quarry is being filled with toxic waster, leading to a worker’s contamination. This thread seems suggestive of the problem of companies that sell waste to China which then pollutes small towns.

One character , in an episode that seems Decalogue-inspired, moonlights by training Chinese garment workers, who would be competing with Camorra-owned businesses. On the surface, this is your “conflict of interest” issue that legitimate companies must often deal with. The other side of that issue is, of course, exploitation of low-wage workers in Asia or in poor countries, a point often hammered by the Left.

The teens think they have come of age (having passed some brutal rites of passage) as they settle to enjoy a house of ill repute, whereupon they are violently disrupted

The film has a big look; it is shot in 2.35:1, and has a big but detailed look, with the seedy side of Naples, the environmental desecration in the quarry, and the expanse of the beach scene in the “crushing” conclusion. But even the smaller scenes are impressive: the film opens in a bluish tanning salon, which will experience a massacre and show us how personal all of this is.

The film credits say that the Camorra family is a major financier of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

YouTube trailer by IFC First Take. The official site is here.

Remember Robert Bork’s book “Slouching Toward Gomorrah?” This film gives some real meaning to that title.

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