Country: Italy, France
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director: Matteo Garrone
Music: Michele Braga
Cinematography: Nicolai Brüel
Alida Baldari Calabria
After dipping his toes into the fantasy realm of TALE OF TALES (2015), Italian movie-maker Matteo Garrone returns to the familiar sordid ground of social realism, this time, corralling his vengeance tale within Rome’s sink neighborhood of Magliana (captured with a somber decrepit allure) and the title DOGMAN denotes the name of the dog parlor Marcello (Fonte) opens, where he dedicatedly grooms our canine friends with alacrity and elation, call each one “amore”, and later during the burglary foisted on him by Simone (Pesce, a towering menace seeping through every pore and grunt), he even hazards to return to the crime scene, only to save a chihuahua, slopped inside a freezer by his partners-in-crime (Garrone’s very realistic treatment of a frozen dog might hazardously be reckoned as an act of animal cruelty in the eyes of radical animal lovers).
Indeed, Marcello is a very nice man, content with his own occupation, pally with everyone else in the rundown neighborhood, enjoys some familial bliss with his young daughter Alida (Calabria) in their diet of sea-diving or dog-grooming contest, who lives with his ex-wife. But he is also a small-time drug dealer, which links him to the bête noire Simone, an ex-boxer turns criminal who terrorizes the area. Juxtaposed by their sheer physical disparity, a pipsqueak and soft-spoken Marcello and a thickset and truculent Simone make an odd presence within the same frame, albeit being constantly bullied and commandeered by Simone, involuntarily Marcello develops a wrong impression that they are buddying up, especially after saving Simone’s life when he is shot. A case of an omega-male’s toxic worship or subjugation to the heftiness of masculine physique and violence.
After taking the rap for Simone for a strongbox theft in the adjacent jewel shop, Marcello is incarcerated for one year, and ostracized by the rest for covering up the crime when he returns. He has more bitter bills to swallow when he demands financial compensation from Simone for his prison stint, the latter just keeps fudging the issue. Only after being publicly drubbed and humiliated, the battered doormat finally exacts his revenge on his callous victimizer (who is not too bright after all), although Marcello only tries to extract an apology from the bullish Simone, their David-and-Goliath confrontation soon ends in casualty, much owing to Marcello’s self-preservation instinct and a quirk of fate.
In a desperate move to mollify his wounded manhood and reclaim the acceptance from the community, Marcello foregoes his original corpse-incinerating plan, instead flaunts it to prove his worth, but Garrone cunningly suffixes it with a desolate coda tampered with a light touch of surrealism, granting Marcello Fonte a killer long shot, during which, the actor runs an impressive gamut of how excitement is blunted, and subsumed into a state of daze and disconsolation, commendably wins him Cannes’ BEST ACTOR honor for this gritty, gripping, gruesome cautionary tale delving into the insalubrious psyche of male pride and bullying dominance.