Reality TV nightmare
Film Review: Reality(No Cert, IFI, 115 minutes) ****
Matteo Garrone was acclaimed as the saviour of Italian cinema back in 2008, when he released his explosive crime drama, Gomorra.
An unflinching look at the corrosive influence of the Cammora crime gangs in the region of Campania, Garrone's film was so hard-hitting it made The Godfather look like The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Critics made links between Garrone's style and the postwar neorealism of filmmakers like Rossellini and De Sica, and deservedly, because Garrone's work casts a cold and clinical eye on the dysfunction that lurks beneath modern Italy's tourist-friendly façade.
The salty backstreets of Naples form the evocative backdrop to Reality, a hilarious but ultimately rather tragic tale of life, love and the poisonous modern obsession with instant celebrity. Italy's version of Big Brother, Grande Fratello, is even more unsavoury than the British one, and Aniello Arena brilliantly portrays a man who risks everything to get on to the show.
Luciano is happy, and very well liked. He sells fish in a rundown Neapolitan quarter and lives on one floor of a faded palazzo turned tenement with his wife, Maria (Loredana Simioli) and their young children. Things are going very nicely until Luciano is persuaded by his children to audition for Grande Fratello.
He's shortlisted and selected to go to Rome for another tryout, after which he's sure he's got in. But when the phone doesn't ring, Luciano becomes convinced he's being watched by spies from the show, and begins to lose his reason.
Garrone plays Luciano's predicament mainly for laughs and allows his darker themes to simmer in the background. Reality is a film about perspective, or the lack of it, and the awful things that can happen to a person when he forgets what's really important. It's another moving and intelligent film from a very talented filmmaker.
Director: Matteo Garrone Stars: Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli, Claudia Gerini, Paola Minaccioni