Blu-ray Review: Gomorrah (Criterion Collection)


In my “B” review of Gomorrah last December I opened saying “its dedication to [Roberto Saviano’s non-fiction story] causes the film to lack focus as it spreads itself too thin by telling five separate stories.” After seeing it a second time I still stand by this statement, but not as adamantly as I did before. A repeat viewing benefits this film greatly and Criterion’s Blu-ray presentation is slick and engrossing, even if the supplemental material can go on a little too long.

As a film we are witness to the world of guns, drugs, illegal toxic waste disposal and even haute couture, all involving organized crime in Naples. The organization, known as the Camorra, is wrapped up not only in illegal activities, but they reinvest their money in legal activities, which is expanded on in the included interviews on this disc, which also stress the hot bed of trouble that found author Roberto Saviano after his expose was originally published.

Another statement I made in my original review I’m still a bit unsure of is when I said Gomorrah “seems more interested in informing rather than entertaining no matter when the information is offered.” In fact I think such a statement makes for a fascinating social experiment considering this film contains everything that excites us when it comes to gangster tales, but the reality of it all is unnerving. I wonder if turning these story angles into some sort of television mini-series and expanding on those featured in the film would be looked at as exploiting a terrible situation for monetary gain or as an eye-opening production shedding light on a situation most people probably don’t even know exists. The film, I still think, is focused on the latter, but the elements of entertainment are definitely there.

Looking into the special features there are really only two different sections. First is the 60-minute behind-the-scenes featurette followed by a large group of interview segments with director Matteo Garrone (22 mins), actor Toni Servillo, author Roberto Saviano (43 mins), actors Gianfelice Imparato, Salvatore Cantalupo and Servillo. Beyond that, there is a batch of six deleted scenes and the three-minute trailer.

The hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary is actually quite fascinating but certainly too long as it’s broken up into five parts mirroring the film itself. Garrone’s on set instruction is particularly fascinating. One example begins as he has his actors go through a scene as scripted and then tells them to completely abandon everything they’ve just said and improvise the lines in search of more spontaneous and realistic dialogue. The best suggestion is to take your time watching each segment and the same goes for the interviews.

Garrone’s interview segment is a perfect length at 22 minutes, but Saviano’s (which is even more interesting) is presented as nothing more than a talking head. What he is saying is intriguing, but at 43 minutes it becomes a bit lengthy for one sit down as the scenery never changes. Fortunately Criterion has indexed it into five parts so you can come back to it should you have the same problem as me.

Overall this is a film to explore and endure. I am still plan on reading Saviano’s book for an even further appreciation. This is a tragic subject, but it also makes for a fascinating film. While I still think the film has difficulty in covering the Camorra as a whole due to the attempt to boil it down to five individual stories there is enough meat here to make a meal and enough supplementary material to keep you busy.

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