Dogman, written – with others – and directed by Matteo Garrone
10 out of 10
Dogman is a glorious, phenomenal motion picture and one of the best this cinephile has seen over the past few years, nominated for the most important cinematic recognition The Palme d’Or.
The film has won a well-deserved Best Actor prize for the incredible, outstanding, miraculous Marcello Fonte and the Palm Dog for the canine cast J at the most relevant film competition in the world – the Cannes Film Festival of 2018.
It is also nominated for the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language and has won the same Best Actor Award at The European Film Awards…
The formidable Marcello Fonte has the leading role of Marcello, The Dogman, a gentle, kind, friendly, modest, soft spoken, short, not perfect – given that some of the troubles he would have are brought upon him in large part, but they are also the result of his own wrong decisions – separated father of a single daughter, Alida.
The hero is so close to the dogs he takes care of that he gives them massages – there is one amusing and emotional – like so many others – scene wherein he makes a bulldog so happy that this one grunts, makes funny noises while the handler touches him.
It is not a job without perils, for in the opening scenes we think he might get mauled by an aggressive animal – seems like a mastiff or a pit bull of some kind – but the protagonist is always patient, so peaceful and humble as to sooth the dogs, often the other characters and the audience.
Indeed, watching this outlandish personage feels like a meditation session or group therapy, for his manner is so serene – well, while he can manage that, without Simoncino to haunt and abuse him – that Marcello seems like a Buddhist, a Zen Master…
Serenity Now! Says George’s father in Seinfeld
Here, it is not a furious man ready to fight with Elaine, but a Stoic, a Saint, a formidable character that is the paradigm of kindness.
However, saintly as the hero is, there is a Devil in the small town by the sea, who has a tense, difficult relationship with the Dogman, who has to cope with adversity and at times horrible abuse.
Granted, the protagonist is himself far from perfect on some levels, an important flaw in his character is the fact that he is a small dealer of drugs and the former boxer, Simone aka Simoncino, comes to take doses from him.
The aggressive bully does not pay for the cocaine he takes from Marcello and furthermore, he presses for his drugs to be delivered even when the daughter of the hero is nearby.
Dogman is not the only victim of the vicious lunatic – as a matter of fact, medical studies have demonstrated that American Football players, boxers and even soccer players that have frequent head contacts with a fast moving ball tend to suffer serious concussions and in many cases, brain injuries.
At one point, Simone is gambling in a video lottery, where he is aggravated that he has lost – was it two hundred euros? – and starts kicking the machine, pushing and destroying it, while the owner of the place tries to reason with him and he has no alternative but to give the deranged individual money.
This infuriated proprietor would then talk with others in the vicinity that had been assailed by the mad scoundrel and he mentions that he could talk with professionals to solve the problem, by which he means hired gunmen that would kill the menace.
He does not get the unanimity needed for such a thing, although one of the ones who are strongly against an attack is going to be hit soon by the Mad Man, who is always trouble.
When he attacks one drug dealer, he gets the upper hand, beating this one and his comrade, only to be shot and probably saved only by the presence of Marcello, who avoids getting involved in medical treatment, stating that he only deals with dogs, but he has no alternative and cleans the wound, extracts the bullet and restores the villain to health.
They seem to enjoy a good time after that – if rather briefly – dancing in a disco, where they take drugs and the boxer brings an attractive woman to dance with Dogman, on demand, being ordered most likely.
Then Simone comes to the Dogman shop and says that he wants to rob the place next door, gaining access through the property of Marcello, who is dead against this, up to the point where he is pushed hard against the wall, squeezed and faced with the prospect of allowing it or be maimed.
He had been this way before, when he was forced to drive Simone and an accomplice to a house, where they stole money and jewelry, throwing a Chihuahua dog that was barking in the freezer, forcing the poor, sensitive Dogman to return to the scene of the crime, climbing up some floors on the exterior draining pipe, to extract the near dead dog and save him…Alhamdulillah.
Marcello will have a very tough time ahead of him, for he is accused and sentenced to jail for the robbery, when he does not want to “be a rat” and help the police make the case against the mad boxer and he is released, he is offered an insulting three hundred euros for his pain – admittedly, if the Dogman had been a more honest, responsible, decent character, he would not want any share of the spoils, but given that he was forced into this breaking in, he would need some money to live, wouldn’t he.
This is a very complex, heartbreaking story, with a tragic hero and a vicious villain, where there is no Super Man, but Marcello is more like Oedipus, faced with a cruel destiny that he appears unable to change in any way…until the end, that is.