Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Gomorrah (2008)

Together with Sodom, Gomorrah was of course a biblical 'sin city' and this Italian film (the title is something of a pun on Camorra -- the local Naples Mafia) drops us into a mire of crime and depravity. Based on the best-selling expose by Roberto Saviano. the movie was a popular festival award winner (including the Grand Prize at Cannes) and sufficiently well reviewed to make me keen to see it. However forceful as it may be in its relentless depiction of evil, starting with the showy massacre of a bunch of buddies using tanning cubicles, it is certainly not conventional entertainment as we know it and certainly not an easy watch.

The film illustrates its premises by following five stories set among the denizens of a squalid and decaying pyramid tenement. There is young Toto, a lad sufficiently girly in appearance that I spent the first part of the film trying to figure out if he were a boy or a girl, who desperately wants to be part of a gang family. There is an elderly money runner, dispensing the mob's largesse to those who have been helpful in the past and who are under its protection, but who finds his personal safety at greater and greater risk. There is a smartass entrepreneur buying up sites to use for the surreptitious dumping of toxic waste, assisted by his increasingly disillusioned graduate sidekick. There is a master tailor and cutter for a clothing manufacturer who moonlights training potentially cut-rate Chinese workers and who revels in having his talents appreciated for once in his career. Finally there are a pair of teenaged layabouts, who fancy themselves as the next Tony Montanas, and who think they don 't need any help in outsmarting the local gangsters; their ultimate doom is 100% apparent from their first appearance.

A major problem with this film is that the five stories barely intertwine and therefore only appear as examples made flesh of the author's preoccupations. In no way do they gel into a coherent whole and one has some difficulty identifying with any of the protagonists or sympathising with them. It is too cold a film to be moving. All it seems to say is that no one can remain untouched by the local milieu nor refrain from taking sides in what appears to be a neverending war. The prevalent philosophy by which they all appear to live is that 'if you are not with us, you're against us'. Many have compared this film to the 2002 Brazilian film "City of God", but that film at least had a reasonably coherent storyline and offered the option of some characters being able to escape into a better life. In this movie the pyramid slums are symbolic of the pyramid of criminal power and one can not hope for a happy outcome or redemption for any of the main protagonists.

From tomorrow evening through late Monday, I shall be immersing myself yet again in the llth annual FrightFest -- non-stop horror and fantasy (although rather less of the latter this year) with only small breaks for sustenance and sleep. A full report will follows -- probably in dollops -- early next week, so no time for journal entries from PPP in the interim. See you then and wish me strength!
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