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Cannes '08: Matteo Garrone's 'Gomorra' wows the crowds

May 19, 2008 |  8:31 am


While Roberto Saviano, the author of the anti-mafia bestseller "Gomorra," may be forced to move frequently and travel by police escort in Italy, Matteo Garrone, the filmmaker who adapted Saviano's novel into a film, is being trailed by praise and good tidings here in France after debuting* his crime syndicate chronicle in competition at the Cannes Film Festival early Sunday morning.

"Gomorra" interweaves five stories of men who work for Camorra, the all-powerful Neapolitan crime clique responsible for thousands of murders and innumerable crimes. It opens with the massacre of a pack of unwitting and portly mobsters in a tanning parlour and only gets seedier and bloodier from there.

Its remarkably detailed authenticity is due to its location shoots "right in the Camorra’s Neapolitan stomping grounds, a wasteland where wars between rival mob families erupt regularly, amid Europe’s highest density of drug dealers, strewn with sweatshops and toxic waste dumps," writes Variety's Nick Vivarelli.

A packed morning screening on Monday would suggest the film's excellent word-of-mouth here at the festival after yesterday's debut.

Here is a taste of critical reactions to "Gomorra" thus far:

Natasha Senjanovic, Hollywood Reporter:
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 the U.S., it should play to the widest possible range of art house audiences looking for a thinking person's mafia movie.

Lee Marshall, Screen Daily:
Like the white powder used and traded by many of its protagonists, "Gomorrah" provides a kick-in-the-head rush but no lasting buzz. ... The cheapness of life is underscored by the soundtrack of tacky "neo melodico" pop sung in Neapolitan dialect: despite the amount of cash we see changing hands, there is nothing of real value in this world.

Jay Weissberg, Variety:
Utilizing a mesmerizing documentary style that studiously avoids glamorizing the horrors, Garrone cherrypicks episodes from Saviano's muckraking tract, building to a chillingly matter-of-fact crescendo of violence, though interwoven tales tend to dissipate the full force of the criminal Camorra families' insidious control.

See Los Angeles Times' John Horn discuss "Gomorra's" U.S. sales prospects here followed by an update here.

-- Sheigh Crabtree

*"Gomorra" opened on 400 screens in Italy two days before its Cannes debut.

Photo: Tony Servillo, Matteo Garrone, Mario Nazionale, Gianfelice Imparato, Salvatore Cantalupo and members of the cast and crew attend the "Gomorra" photocall at Cannes on Sunday. WireImage.