Saturday, 28 July 2018

Dogman: NZIFF Review

Dogman: NZIFF Review

A brutal yet intensely intimate piece about the corruption of crime, male friendships and the pecking order of society, Matteo Garrone's thriller Dogman is about as far from the glamour of crime as you can get.

Marcello Fonte plays Marcello, a dog groomer in the middle of a seaside estate that never really came to fruition. In among the uncompleted construction and the grim vistas, Marcello's a popular man with his shopworker colleagues.

But the area has a problem in the form of towering man mountain, Simone (a hulking Edoardo Pesce), who terrorises the neighbourhood and is a volatile presence. However, Marcello, used to taming ferocious animals in his grooming parlour (as witnessed by an opening sequence where a snarling pitbull refuses his washing advances before ultimately submitting to a shampoo, followed by a blow dry of the jowls) believes Simone to be his friend. It's a relationship of subjugation and domination, that's corrosive yet compulsive for both parties.
Dogman: NZIFF Review

It's an assumption fed by Simone's cocaine habit, and Marcello's desire to feed it, despite the money for the transactions stopping long ago, and Simone's use of bullying to get what he wants.

With the neighbourhood determined to rid themselves of Simone, Marcello finds his relationship with the brute pushed into more dangerous territory than expected.

Dogman's feel is one of a simmering powderkeg, as you wait tensely for the eruptions to come.

But Garrone (Gomorrah) wisely piles the stakes high, while keeping the drama low. The explosion never comes in the way you'd expect, and yet throughout the audience spends its time willing Marcello to tear of the shackles of this oppression and strike back.

Here's the thing with Dogman though - it's all about a wry examination of relationships.
From Marcello's bond with Simone, to his loving relationship with his estranged daughter via the bonhmie dealt upon him by his fellow shopkeepers, Marcello appears to be aware of what the order of things is and also inherently what the right thing to do is.

When Simone is attacked, Marcello's instinct is to do what he can to save him, fundamentally knowing this is what is to be done, even though the right thing would be to let him die. Equally, when Simone suggests a plan that's fuelled by greed and will impact others, Marcello's reticent fearing for his friends, and also his place in that society.

Fonte imbues his scrawny and weedy Marcello with a tragic pathos throughout - as Garrone lingers on his face (a cross between Peter Lorre, Klinger from M*A*S*H and Steve Buscemi), the conflict is etched deeply within. Physicality plays a large part here from Fonte's almost weedy like posture and appearance to Pesce's towering brute, the contrast could not be more evident - likewise with outlooks.

However, what Garrone does well in Dogman, is to show a man wrestling with his place in the system, a man who shouldn't really take any more and a man whose loyalties are stretched in ways unexpected. This is the tragedy of the slow-burning piece, the price of personal corruption, and the personal cost of crime - it's a searing look where no one is perfect, nobody is innocent, and ultimately, everyone pays the price.

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