Dogman is one of the most extraordinary films of the past years and a huge step forward for Italian cinema.

Directed by Matteo Garrone, it tells the story of Marcello (superbly played by Marcello Fonte), a dog groomer by occupation and dog lover by hobby. He is a tame man, small and scrawny, loved by his mates and adored by his daughter. He approaches everything and everyone with courtesy and nice words – not even the local thugs’ pitbulls dare hurt him. Marcello himself doesn’t believe he could ever be capable of hurting anyone.

But Marcello is also a product of his environment. Garrone returns to a scenario similar to the one of his 2008 Gomorrah: the abandoned outskirts of a big city in central Italy, where mobsters reign supreme. We can easily imagine the past glory of this seaside village in the 60s but with the same ease we can see the unlawful business that went into the construction of this cement giant. The high rates of small criminals have damaged Marcello’s business; not his salon as much as his side job as a cocaine dealer. Former boxer turned local bully Simone (Edoardo Pesce) has long stopped paying in cash and Marcello’s benevolently granted doses have turned him into a raging cokehead, feared by the street’s shop owners.

Marcello’s inability to say no gets him stuck in a tricky situation. Even when it becomes clear that Simone expects him to do prison time on his behalf, Marcello doesn’t have the power to rebel and instead betrays his friend on a promise of a payment that will allow him to take his daughter on one of their usual lavish vacations.

Dogman is a film of extraordinary bite and strength. It completely lacks in physical violence. Garrone produced a masterpiece while also creating a new genre – a sort of sentimental noir, a rom-noir if you wish. It investigates the pettiness of criminals as well as their emotional life and drives.

The film premiered at Cannes earlier this year and is coming to the UK quite late and in the original Italian version. Dogman was nominated for the Palme d’Or and Fonte won the Best Actor award at the French festival. It was also selected as the Italian representative for the Foreign film category at the Academy Awards.

5 stars

Image Credit: Movie DB.

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