Friday, April 3, 2009

Gomorrah (Rhoades)

“Gomorrah” is Address For Italian Crime Drama

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Up until 1957 J. Edgar Hoover maintained that there was no such thing as organized crime in the United States. We now know that the Mafia was in fact alive and well, a serious business competitor to the US government. It used extortion instead of taxes. Bookies instead of state-controlled OTB parlors. Bolitas instead of state-run lotteries. Speakeasies instead of ABC stores. Bullets instead of electric chairs.

Don’t believe me. Just turn on a TV rerun of “The Sopranos.”

Whether you call them Mafia, Black Hand, Cosa Nostra, or Murder Incorporated, they’ve been around since Italian immigration of the ’20s.

(Hey, I don’t want to hear from the Italian Defamation League on this. My wife’s maiden name is Martellotti, so I’ve got a right.)

Turns out, the crime cartels in Italy go by many names also. In a new film called “Gomorrah” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema – we examine half-a-dozen men whose lives have fallen under the shadow of the Camorra, a powerful Mafia-like confederation that originated in the city of Naples. It is said to be the oldest organized criminal group in Italy.

The Camorra specializes in drug trafficking, extortion, protection, and racketeering. Even today, these activities engender a high number of homicides in the Campania region.

Instead of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra’s pyramid structure, the Camorra utilizes a more horizontal configuration. With individual clans acting independently, there tends to be more feuding among its members.

In “Gomorrah,” we meet a bagman who distributes money to families of gang members who are in prison. A 13-year-old kid who is initiated into the gang. A tailor who is intimidated by Camorra hit men. A waste management worker who becomes disgusted by illegal toxic dumping. Two wannabe gangsters who learn first-hand about the Camorra’s idea of gun control.

Directed by Matteo Garrone, this film is based on a bestselling book by Roberto Saviano. Following its publication, Saviano was threatened by several Neapolitan “godfathers,” which encouraged the Italian Minister of the Interior to grant him a permanent police escort.

This genre of storytelling has been described as the New Italian Epic, a style that produces UNOs, or Unidentified Narrative Objects.

Call it what you will, you will walk away from the theater convinced that organized crime exists in Italy. “Gomorrah” has been called “surely the most truthful gangster movie yet.”

[from Solares Hill]

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