Directed by: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce and Alida Baldari Calabria
“Dogman” follows the muddied tracks of the subdued dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte) and his complicated relationship with the neighborhood brute, Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce).
Marcello carries out a peaceful existence as a mild-mannered divorced dad who owns the neighborhood dog-grooming store in a dreary seaside Italian town. He competes in grooming competitions, plays soccer with the other neighborhood shopkeepers, sees his daughter on occasion and shares his pasta dinner with his dog. In spite of his daily activities, Marcello is laced with undertones of crime due to his volatile relationship with Simoncino.
Simoncino is the surly local bully who commits petty crimes and constantly harasses the nearby shopkeepers. His flimsy relationship with Marcello is built upon the fact that Simoncino can continuously bum cocaine off of him. In order to gain Simoncino’s favor, Marcello constantly rolls over into nefarious schemes involving drugs and theft.
This rickety friendship arrives at a breaking point when Simoncino forcefully asks Marcello to give him the keys to his shop in order to break through the wall and ransack the jewelry store next door. During this discussion, Marcello must decide whose approval he wishes to garner more: Simoncino’s or his fellow shop-keeping friends.
“Dogman” is bathed in a beautiful and somber style that parallels that of “Children of Men” (2006). With it being set in a rundown seaside town in its off-season, the film immediately immerses you in a setting that invokes a sense of melancholy nostalgia.
The panning shots in the film are extremely smooth and they capture the essence of the story that the film is trying to tell. Matteo Garrone does an amazing job at exploring the characters through their actions, instead of exposition or dialogue. The characters unfold frame-by-frame with every beat and step the actors take.
Both Marcello Fonte and Edoardo Pesce gave fantastic performances through their vastly different characters. Before any dialogue is exchanged, the difference can quietly be seen in Marcello’s hunched and lanky posture and Simoncino’s meaty and barbaric stance. The contrasts in their separate characters helped evolve their combined relationship on-screen.
Marcello and Simoncino formed an unlikely pair in a somewhat unwilling friendship, but they played off of each other extremely well.
This Italian feature slowly explores a relationship through a dark, bleak lens. It unveils the underbelly of a sleepy coastal town and the limits of a seemingly complaisant dog groomer. 2/4 stars