Film Title: Reality
Director: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli, Nando Paone, Graziella Mariana, Nello Iorio
Running Time: 127 min
At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Aniello Arena, star of this colourful satire of reality television, accidentally offered practical evidence that, in these fetid times, true stories draw more attention than made-up ones. Arena, who plays a fishmonger dragged into the Italian version of Big Brother , is currently serving a life sentence for murder. Headlines barked. Chatter fizzed. It began to look as if Mr Garrone was playing games with the metatext.
As it happens, Arena is first class in a film that manages to extract a few more desperate ninnies from a horse that has been well and truly flogged. Director Matteo Garrone is best known outside Italy for his huge, harrowing gangster flick Gomorrah . The new film is lighter, flashier, but just as serious in its intent.
We begin with the protagonist, Luciano, attending a vulgar wedding that, like much else in the film, gestures flamboyantly towards the work of Fellini. We meander deeper into La Dolce Vita territory when a former cast member of the Italian Big Brother turns up to jolt the guests with his meaningless celebrity.
Some time later, the producers of the show arrive to audition for the next series. Being what TV now thinks of as a “character”, the colourful, charismatic Neapolitan – at home to minor scams when not flogging fish – passes the opening interviews and begins looking forward to the current, grimy school of fame. It hardly needs to be said that his life starts to warp beneath the blistering glare.
Some have compared Reality to The King of Comedy . But Garrone’s film offers an even more sombre take on modern fame. In Martin Scorsese’s picture, Rupert Pupkin, already damaged, always sought this class of renown. The largely amiable Luciano is sucked in by the machine and mutated into a monstrous caricature of himself.
Such is the vitality of the storytelling that it proves easy to ignore the fact that reality TV now satirises itself more ruthlessly than any dramatist could. After the gruesome Jade Goody business, Reality seems positively tame. Hugely entertaining, no netheless.