DVD Review: A Second Look at “Gomorrah”

The Criterion Collection has an agreement with IFC Films to put some of its more noteworthy acquisitions on DVD, and so we have Matteo Garrone’s outstanding Gomorrah. I reviewed the film back in March. Earlier this year I didn’t feel ready to commit to a proper Top 10 list for films released in 2008, but having seen just about everything worthwhile since then, I’d certainly slot in Gomorrah.

Gomorrah is frightening in the best sense: Moral,” I wrote. Garrone’s adaptation of a searing bestseller leaves the capos and capers behind to concentrate on how syndicate control pervades Italian society at every level, and reaches outward. It tells five stories of pitiless corruption, with the only exposition coming afterwards. I likened it to a “waking nightmare” for the middlemen, workers, and impressionable kids caught in the crossfire, and I left the theater uneasy.

The film comes to DVD in a standard two-disc package or as a Blu-ray. In standard format the first disc is dedicated to the movie, with a new HD digital transfer that squeezes every seamy drop of life from Marco Onorato’s widescreen framing, a theatrical trailer, and new subtitles. Complementing the feature is a thorough booklet essay by Chuck Stephens that explores the history of the Camorra system, the seismic impact of the book (whose author, Roberto Saviano, has been obliged to live under police protection since its publication), and how Garrone makes use of Neapolitan architecture and plays off the works of Federico Fellini, Francesco Rosi, and Michelangelo Antonioni.

Garrone and Saviano are spotlighted in separate interviews on the second disc, the director expanding upon his vision of the film (and the problems of location shooting) and the writer filling in the details about the syndicate—the impression of a vise tightening a little harder on Italy each year if unmistakable. Chances are though that the first supplement you’ll want to dip into once you’ve seen the film is the interview with actor Toni Servillo, who plays Franco, the mob’s toxic waste management specialist. Franco is a charming, insinuating bastard, and Servillo, star of the recent political expose Il Divo, makes the most of the breakthrough part. He, Gianfelice Imparato (who plays the middleman, Don Ciro), and Salvatore Cantalupo (heartbreaking as Pasquale, the tailor) are interviewed for an additional segment on actors.

An excellent hour-long documentary captures, on the run, the filming of the five stories, with six deleted scenes offered as an additional extra. The exemplary presentation adds considerable value to the unsettling, unshakable Gomorrah—and I’d like to see Criterion take on the IFC-distributed In the Loop and Antichrist besides.

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