Good cinema takes time. Matteo Garrone first thought of the idea behind “Dogman” in 2008. He had this image, that of “a few dogs, locked up in a cage, bearing witness to the explosion of human bestiality” (translated from the production notes). “Dogman” (Garrone’s fourth film in Cannes) is like a corroded fresco of an Italy that’s concealed from the sightseeing brochures. Like in “Reality,” or “Gomorra,” the characters in “Dogman” belong to a fragile, working-class society, they are castaways who do not belong on the globalized world stage, one in which Russian oligarchs snap up expensive properties and Berlusconi’s acolytes live off the fat of the land.
Marcello the dog groomer (Marcello Fonte, a Calabrese actor) has that old-world face, wears a vaguely beatific expression, he’s happy grooming dogs in his shop, called “Dogman” and tending to his daughter, whenever his ex-wife lets him spend some time with her. Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce), a pal who’s a former boxer addicted to coke, seems to be on a downward spiral. He takes an unwitting Marcello on an increasingly-serious crime spree, the ultimate consequence of which being that Marcello will end up doing jail time.
The dog groomer has endured a lifetime of humiliation, he’s just that kind of guy. After Simoncino deals the final, worst kind of humiliation unto him (the aforementioned jail time), the latter will find a way to both seek revenge, and deliver himself from his bruised ego.
“Dogman” is an absolute jewel of cinematography and restraint, it’s as if Garrone shot everything with a lens dipped in embalmer’s fluid, a sort of acrid blue-green residue that renders the poor, blue-collar neighborhood in which the film takes place, very effectively. This new film by Garrone is yet further evidence of the argument that I am a strong believer in that good cinema takes a long time to come about.
Prizes coming this way? Wouldn’t be surprised (17/20).