Matteo Garrone

Editor’s note: This review originally ran during Cannes 2012, but we’re re-running it as the film’s limited theatrical release begins this weekend. Those expecting Matteo Garrone to follow up 2008′s excellent Gomorrah with another authentic new world crime drama might be surprised to hear that his latest project replaces the seedy criminal underworld for a thoroughly modern exploration of the current fascination with reality TV and its particular brand of disposable fame. In Reality, we follow the tragi-comic story of Luciano (Aniello Arena), a Neapolitan fishmonger with aspirations to find his fortune on the Italian version of Big Brother at the behest of his family who see him as a star and inspired by the success of former housemate Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante). We also follow his subsequent delusional breakdown. Reality is effectively Garrone’s take on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, replacing the golden ticket with the chance to make it into the Big Brother House and instead of giving Charlie his fantastical pay-off, tricking him and trapping him in a perpetual hunt through Wonka bars for his one big shot. Offered an irresistible glimpse at what the prize would mean for his future, and intoxicated with the modern Fame Disease, Luciano quickly turns from charming family man to an obsessive, paranoid reclusive, convinced that the casting team of Big Brother are testing him for selection long after the show has started.

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Matteo Garrone‘s new film, Reality, opens with a horse-drawn carriage, looking like it’s from the Victorian era, heading down a busy street filled with cars. As we zoom in closer and closer, the fantastical is highlighted more and more. It becomes pretty obvious that the film will wow us in a way not many others can, by presenting something that we just can’t believe is real. Luciano (Aniello Arena) is very much a larger-than-life character. After much pushing and prodding from his children, he tests to be on Grande Fratello, the Italian version of Big Brother. After performing so well, Luciano is certain — as is the entire town – that he will be called up to be on the show. The film follows his descent into madness as he waits for the call. An aspect of the world we live in that’s always ripe for discussion is the concept of celebrity. What is a celebrity? What do you have to do to become one? Would you want to be one? These are questions the audience asks while watching this film. Luciano never showed much interest in being on TV prior to his children’s suggestion, but when he gets a hint that it might happen, his fixation on being prepared for it causes his vanity and paranoia to get the better of him. We see Luciano become a celebrity in his own town, first for the potential of being on TV and then eventually for losing his mind.

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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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