Through the revolt of a dog groomer, Matteo Garrone weaves a human and political fable that refuses Manichaeism.
Garrone’s cinema seems to blossom at best in the squalid, damp and greyish suburbs of Naples, whose glauquerie engenders a paradoxical cinégénie. After Gomorra , here Dogman , cruel tale that tells us about a certain state of Italy (and the world) today, consumed by the infernal misery-violence couple.
Marcello is a groomer for dogs: he is brave, gentle, sickly, dressed in a thin voice and a head at the Buster Keaton / Luis Rego. His childhood friend, Simoncino, is a thick brute, a crypto-mafia glander of his condition, a cousin of Maciste or Pascal Brutal, even Mussolini. They could form a burlesque duet at Laurel & Hardy, but Simoncino’s savage personality draws their friendship and the film to a more serious tone.
They also have a commercial link: Marcello deale a little cocaine to round off his end of the month and pay a nice vacation to his little girl, Simoncino is his main and voracious client. Coke helping, their relationship will fester, especially when Marcello will take a year of jail in place of Simoncino for not wanting to denounce him.
Dogs and humanism
By his goodness and his ability to cash, Marcello evokes a little the figure of Lazzaro in Alice Rohrwacher’s film seen a few days ago. Except that rather than always stretching the other cheek according to the holy catholic precepts, Marcello ends up revolting against the twisted and sometimes physical blows of Simoncino.
The presence of the dogs allegorizes the animal part of the man, as in the inaugural scene or a pittbull drooling and fangs out eventually accepts the shower Marcello administers him by means of soft words and croquettes, and even to enjoy the blow from the dryer. This molosse, in turn furious and cuddly, is parallel to two extreme tendencies of our humanity incarnated by our two false brothers, and Garrone films with as much attention and precision these two poles. On one side are the scenes where Marcello spends time with his daughter or the extraordinary one, where he brings back to life a frosted doggie for being dumped in a freeze by Simoncino, on the other, the obtuse exactions of Simoncino.
In these times of Trump, Kim Jong-un, Netanyahu, Daesh, Northern League, in short ideological dogma and the rise of the law of force, the political metaphor of Dogman seems transparent. But it is also a human fable that exceeds its apparent Manichaeism, as evidenced by the final sequences and the last shot, beautiful. Misery calls violence, but beneath the pavement of violence there is sometimes the beach of humanism.
Dogman , by Matteo Garrone, with Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce … (It., 2018, 1h42) Selection: Official Competition