The next Discover Tuesday title is Matteo Garrone’s REALITY, playing across Picturehouse Cinemas on 28 May.
The neorealist films of Rossellini, De Sica, Visconti and the like fractured traditional conventions of filmmaking. Marked by their authenticity and set against the backdrop of a post-war Italy exhausted by poverty, these affecting chronicles of everyday life bred masterpieces of Italian cinema. Winner of the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Matteo Garrone’s REALITY skews the tradition and taps into a contemporary unease about our celebrity-obsessed culture.
Luciano (Aniello Arena), an affable Neapolitan fishmonger, struggles to provide for his young family. He sells a bizarre kitchen appliance door-to-door and dresses as a clown at weddings to earn extra cash. A man of bravado with dreams of grandeur, Luciano looks to the stars. So when auditions for the next series of Grande Fratello (the Italian version of Big Brother) take place at his local shopping centre, he is hell-bent on realising his destiny and becoming a famous reality television star.
The modest dilemma of the great neorealist films (a stolen bike in THE BICYCLE THIEVES or an elderly man’s struggle to pay his landlord in UMBERTO D) is reshaped for post-Berlusconi Italy into a breathtaking tragi-comedy. Throughout REALITY there is an underlying sense of paranoia as Luciano is consumed by the media’s hysteria for wealth and celebrity. This feeling is artfully created, steered by Alexandre Desplat’s enchanting score and moments of Fellini-esque surrealism that include a hypnotic opening sequence of a garish modern wedding. The film is also notable for the marvellous feature debut performance of lead Aniello Arena. Astonishingly, the 44-year-old actor is a convicted hit-man for the notorious Neapolitan mob – the Camorra – and is currently serving a life sentence for the death of three members of a rival gang.
Following the success of his acclaimed crime drama GOMORRAH, Matteo Garrone has cemented his position as one of Italy’s foremost filmmakers with this warped fairy tale for our times. REALITY is ceaselessly compelling, darkly comical and a guaranteed delight.