Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Reality (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Taking a slightly different turn from his usual dog-eat-dog subject matter, director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) employs a sprig of black comedy in his latest feature "Reality". The film is about the otherness of Reality-tv and skewers its subject wonderfully with crisp and colorful imagery reminiscent of  Terry Gilliam.

Aniello Arena stars as Luciano, a likable extroverted Neapolitan fishmonger who becomes obsessed by the Italian version of the "Big Brother" TV verite show. Luciano copes with mundane life in Naples by dressing in drag and entertaining at weddings. One day he spies "Big Brother" house resident Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante) who is a resembles a pushy and slightly obnoxious hipster. Enzo has a mania that recalls a Soupy Sales combined with a Howie Mandel. He flails wildly in a straw journalists' hat. Enzo is simply famous for being famous. And he is not a particularly nice person.

Luciano's mania commences when his young daughter (Martina Graziuso) wants a picture with Enzo. Luciano gets the idea in his head to audition for "Big Brother" thereby securing hero-worship with his daughter and validating his existence beyond the invisible.

Using seemingly arbitrary and innocuous motives, Luciano begins to position himself in Enzo's personal space, first as a drag performer, then as a fan.

"Reality" slinks around a dark corner sneakily recalling Scorsese's "The King of Comedy". He spies on Enzo in the restroom.  Aniello Arena is near perfect in his debut role as a self deprecating but eerie man, who by all accounts is well meaning but who still retains a scariness that comes from his melancholy and his sadness. Luciano is a puzzle; he has an adorable kid and a loving wife and he is charming with his friends, yet he is eaten up by a soft desperation as many are, specifically, the need for fame and self documentation.

Luciano happily goes about his business at the market but all the while his friends mention money and fame as if they are Buddhist attainments. He begins to think Italian network TV spies are watching him to test his charismatic worth. Religious motifs are interspersed throughout the film and it becomes clear that Jesus can be seen as the first pop star.

Lastly, the final scene in which Luciano attempts to breach the Big Brother compound and passes by completely unnoticed, recalls the best of film noir as well as Stanley Kubrick.

The narrative possesses a sneaky seductive momentum in the guise of something light and madcap . The last images of Luciano seen from up above resembling a small faltering star will haunt you.

"Reality" despite its bouncing imagery is no trival pastichio, but a thoughtful episodic film that plays better than "The Truman Show" in its dark and playfully gray tones.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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