May 3, 2019

in Movies

Film (2019)
Directed by Matteo Garrone

Screenplay by Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso
In Italian

With Marcello Fonte (Marcello), Edoardo Pesce (Simoncino), Alida Baldari Calabria (Alida)

Marcello Fonte as Marcello in 'Dogman'

Marcello Fonte as Marcello
in “Dogman”
Image: Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

A dark and troubling story about a nebbishy dog groomer in a small town in Italy who is tormented by the town bully.

Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a sweet, small, deferring guy who runs a dog parlor in town, is likeable and well-received, but rides on the edge of no-good-dom. He’s got his hands in the drug trade and, as a result, has dealings with some tough and unlikeable people. Though divorced, Marcello is a devoted and loving father to his young daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria), and would do anything for her. In the course of trying to manage his affairs, he’s pushed to the limit by the town’s chief bully, Simone (Edoardo Pesce), with consequences all around.

This very dark and moody film has a gritty appeal. The protagonist is heroic in some odd way, but only in the midst of a field of flaws. Tragic, in the classic sense, the character, out of almost a seeming destiny, places his feet in the wrong spots and that drives the events that follow.

As I watched this film, I wondered whether the script would take the plot towards a particular evocation of the nobility of character. Despite the protagonist’s relative lack of power, his early demonstrated ability to deal effectively with vicious dogs appears to foreshadow a different outcome with Simone.

The mission of the plot is more dire than that. This is not the story of traditional moral heroism, but of a kind of existential demand, a following-through of what the deep costs of disenfranchisement can be.

Dark, troubling, and moving in a paradoxically contorted way, Dogman displays warmth and sensitivity along with brutality and revenge as all parts of a continuum. It’s a fascinating treatment of a small subject, a knot of torment in a minor key, a showdown of opponents not on the open plaza but on cobbled streets.

– BADMan

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