Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli, Claudia Gerini, Paola Minaccioni, Ciro Petrone, Nunzia Schiano, Nando Paone, Arturo Gambardella, Angelica Borghese
Written by: Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Braucci, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso
Directed by: Matteo Garrone
MPAA Rating: R for some language
Language: Italian
Running Time: 116
Date: 04/05/2013

Reality (2013)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Big Brother Is Watching

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Have you ever seen one of those Hollywood movies -- and there are a lot -- where the hero goes out and celebrates, spending tons of money, etc., in anticipation of the big promotion he's going to get the next day? Guess what? The hero NEVER gets the promotion. It never actually occurs to him that this is a possibility, and it's highly annoying to watch.

Matteo Garrone's Reality is an entire long movie about this scenario. Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a small-time fishmonger in Naples, who enhances his income with a complicated scheme that involves the delivery and return of kitchen "robots." He's a consummate entertainer, dressing up in costumes and becoming the life of any party. When the TV reality show "Big Brother" comes to town and holds auditions, Luciano's family encourages him to apply. He becomes obsessed with the idea of getting on the show -- and winning -- and proceeds to sabotage his entire life. He also becomes paranoid about the show's audition process.

Garrone, who made the excellent crime film Gomorrah (2008) as well as the not-so-good The Embalmer (2002), starts off well, with some powerfully resonant shots. The lengthy opener follows a fancy horse-drawn carriage racing through the streets, heading toward a wedding ceremony. Following the wedding, he stages a fascinating "getting undressed, going back to reality" montage in another long, sustained take.

But as soon as the reality show element comes in, the movie abandons its creativity and goes for broad, anxious comedy that never works. Garrone doesn't appear to have anything to say about the insidious nature of reality shows in general, only illustrating the horrible longing to be on one. (The final stretch, on the set of the show itself, is filmed like a bizarre trip to heaven.)

The movie has hints that Garrone is trying to do something worthwhile here, such as moments in which Luciano's friends and family break down around him, but they don't seem to be equipped to handle the frenzy of Luciano's obsession. On the plus side, it does contain some beautiful footage of Rome's Cinecitta movie studio. But in "reality," this movie is a misfire.

Oscilloscope released the Blu-ray in one of their trademark environment-saving cardboard boxes. It features two audio mixes (both Italian), a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 track (the default setting), and an uncompressed 2.0 stereo mix. The picture quality is fine, though the original movie is designed to look "realistic" and low-budget. Extras include deleted scenes, a 23-minute interview with director Garrone, some behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a trailer.

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