Blog Category: Film

And Featuring Scarlett Johansson in the Role of…Angelina Jolie

10:29 AM

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Johansson Venice.jpg

Following last night’s screening of Gomorra, an invitation-only crowd headed to Osteria del Circo for dinner and a brief question-and-answer session with the filmmakers that was moderated by writers Gay Talese and Nick Pileggi. Among the topics of discussion was a scene near the end of movie, in which a high-end dressmaker, who has learned the hard way that his employer is mobbed up, watches television footage of the actress Scarlett Johannsson arriving at a premiere in an elegant gown identical to one he has been involved in manufacturing. At the post-screening discussion, the film’s director Matteo Garrone explained that in Roberto Saviano’s book, Gomorrah, from which the film was adapted, there is a similar scene depicting the actress Angelina Jolie and a dress at the Oscars. But, Garrone explained, “we could not get the rights” to archive footage of Jolie at the Academy Awards. Instead, the director added, “we got the rights of Scarlett Johansson in Venice,” presumably at the 2006 film festival there where the actress wore a vintage gown to the premiere of The Black Dahlia that appears to match the one depicted in Gomorra. Garrone explained that Johansson’s gown was then copied and reproduced in various stages of construction for use in his film. Added Garrone, “I don’t know if Scarlett Johansson knows she is in the movie.”


See Naples and Die of Heartbreak

1:11 PM

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If you have any connection to Italy, be it familial, spiritual or even culinary in nature, then there’s a movie you should see this fall. It’s called, Gomorra and if, like me, your notions of Italy are largely romantic, then prepare to have your eyes opened and your pulse quickened. Directed by Matteo Garrone, Gomorra is the film adaptation of Gomorrah, a book by investigative reporter Roberto Saviano that I somehow missed when it was published in the U.S. last year. According to The New York Times initially sold an “astonishing 600,000 copies” in Italy—almost 2 million copies worldwide since then—and resulted in its author going into hiding with 24-hour police protection because it angered some of the people depicted within its pages.

The subject of both Saviano’s book and Garrone’s film is the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, a violent, vampiric presence that is sucking the life out of the Italian region of Campania, of which Naples is the capital, and, increasingly, exerting its corruptive influence on a global level. According to the Times, since 1979, the Camorra has killed more people than the Sicilian mafia and the Irish Republican Army, and its tentacles extend to Campania’s ports, the fashion industry, drugs and industrial waste disposal, the last of which has poisoned the land and led to an increase in cancer in the region.

I haven’t read Saviano’s book (though I certainly plan to), but judging from the reviews, it’s a powerful literary work, and the kind of sprawling story that’s difficult to turn into a compelling film. But Garrone has done a masterful job. Make no mistake, Gomorra—like the book’s title, a play on Camorra—is gritty, bleak and disturbing, and, unlike so many American mob movies, devoid of romance, but, boy, it gets under your skin. (In Italy, more than 2 million moviegoers have seen it, and not only did the film win Grand Prize at Cannes this year, it will represent its mother country in the foreign film category at the Oscars next year.) At the screening I attended, Martin Scorsese introduced the film, and he talked about how, without any exposition or traditional narrative, Garrone immerses the moviegoer in a strange, violent world where it’s impossible to get your bearings.

The central setting of Gomorra is a drab dystopian neighborhood consisting of multi-level cookie cutter apartment complexes, shadowy stairwells and confusing concrete byways that could be found anywhere. “You don’t know what country you’re in; you don’t know what city. You don’t know what street it is. You never know that,” Scorsese explained. “You’re just dropped onto another planet, and you’re on your own.”

[Continue reading "See Naples and Die of Heartbreak"...]



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