Andy Warhol once said that in the future everyone would be entitled to her/his 15 minutes of fame. Reality is a film about what happens when someone doesn't get them: Neapolitan fishmonger Luciano (Aniello Arena), who gets bitten by the bug when he auditions for the Italian edition of Big Brother at his daughters' insistance. Luciano, who makes ends meet with a shifty kitchen-appliance reselling coup, is so convinced that he will make it into the show's next season that, when the break fails to materialize, he grows increasingly delusional and paranoid, falling deeper into a conspiracy theory of his own devising.

     While Reality has a lot to say about the reality-show culture, the Italian working class and the effects of instant fame, Matteo Garrone's superb follow-up to the masterful Gomorrah is also a harrowing look at a man in the process of unravelling. Luciano, outstandingly inhabited by Mr. Arena — a real-life mafioso that is incarcerated for life and got prison-release to perform in the film — is a man who throws away all he has built for his family just for the sake of a fleeting moment of happiness. That happiness is what he thinks he sees in Enzo, the local Big Brother contestant whom he half-stalks, and whose personal appearances in wedding halls, shopping malls and discos he sees as external signs of a better life.

     Instead, Mr. Garrone's smart handling makes sure that the viewer is not fooled by Luciano's optimistic view, treating his daily life as worthy of a full-fledged cinematic treatment with sweeping dolly shots and making sure that the camera never truly goes inside his dream. It's a somewhat cruel but utterly lucid understanding that this is, in fact, one dream Luciano will not be allowed to fulfill, no matter what he thinks, pointing out as well that his real life has all that he seeks inside the Big Brother house in much larger quantities. Bookended by two stunning tracking shots that perfectly contrast reality and illusion, Reality does have traces of the humanity, generosity and boisterousness of classic Italian comedy, coupled with Federico Fellini's laser-focused fascination for the grotesque that is hidden inside (even in Alexandre Desplat's very Nino Rota-ish soundtrack).

Cast: Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli, Nando Paone, Nunzia Schiano, Claudia Gerini

Director: Matteo Garrone
Screenplay: Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Mr. Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, from a story by Mr. Garrone and Mr. Gaudioso
Cinematography: Marco Onorato  (colour, widescreen)
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Designer: Paolo Bonfini
Costumes: Maurizio Millenotti
Editor: Marco Spoletini
Producers: Domenico Procacci, Mr. Garrone (Archimede, Fandango, Le Pacte and Garance Capital in association with Rai Cinema)
Italy/France, 2012, 116 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12, Lisbon, January 7th 2013


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