After causing an international splash with his sublime ‘Gomorrah‘ and the Grand Prix winning ‘Reality’, Italian director Matteo Garrone returned to Cannes in 2015 with the high concept flop ‘Tale of Tales’. The dark, gritty crime drama film ‘Dogman’ is a welcome return to form.
Garrone’s latest follows Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a short, sycophantic man whose job is to care for local puppies and also to dish out some cocaine on the side to the likes of the brutish, Alpha male Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce). As he gets caught up in a series of poor decisions, the visual metaphor of the runt trying to appease the big dog is made manifest throughout. One can see allusions to historical Italian challenges, where the uneasy relationship that Italian citizens have with people of political, economic, military or criminal power have on a long-suffering populace.
It’s to Garrone’s credit that the film is allowed to be highly allegorical without becoming ponderous or didactic. Fonte’s nuanced performance (awarded Best Actor at Cannes) shows a character that’s equal parts deserving of our empathy and scorn. Pesce is also pitch perfect, the kind of boorish bully that often gets his way through hard-headed means, a rabid man with rapacious appetites. Combined, they tell a tale that’s artistically rich and psychologically challenging, forming a kind of ‘Lord of the Flies’ social experiment with deadly consequences.
This smartly executed work by Garrone is among his best. ‘Dogman’ is certainly a tale with bite.