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NYFF ’08 | “Gomorrah,” Garrone and Scorsese in NYC; Wong Kar Wai Revisits “Ashes of Time”

NYFF '08 | "Gomorrah," Garrone and Scorsese in NYC; Wong Kar Wai Revisits "Ashes of Time"

There is no slick soundtrack and no Hollywood stars playing criminals, but Italian director Matteo Garrone‘s “Gomorrah,” which won the Cannes Film Festival’s grand prize, and is currently screening at the New York Film Festival, is nothing short of riveting, and sadly – real. Over the last thirty years, the Comorra crime syndicate has murdered 4,000 people in Italy’s Naples and Caserta provinces. That number tops assasinations by the IRA, ETA and other European terrorist organizations. Additionally, its economic might is estimated to be an immense 150 billion Euros per year via drug and arms trafficking and other “enterprises” such as “protection” as well as by doing business in seemingly legitimate businesses as construction, tourism, textiles, trasport, fuel, distribution, food, supermarkets, restaurants, retail and banking.

Unfortunately, the film is a painfully realistic account of the Camorra system which envelopes Naples and Caserta. Based on a best selling book by Roberto Saviano, five stories are interwoven depicting the entrenched cycle of violence, power and murder. “When I read Saviano’s book, I felt it was a great opportunity for me, so I went [there] and shot the movie from inside,” commented Garrone during a post-screening press discussion in New York. “I always verified what we wrote and met a lot of people who lived in this war.”

In the film, a 13 year old boy pursues his place in the power structure and begins his “education” in the system, meanwhile Marco and Ciro act out their fantasies of living in a Brian de Palma film, as criminal renegades which the system regards as annoying. In another sub-pot, Franco hires Roberto to work with him in toxic waste management, though the young man, who is a recent university graduate, is disturbed by Roberto’s flagrant environmental disregard and corruption. Pasquale, meanwhile, is a talented tailor who makes a meager living working for the fashion industry as a subcontractor. When Chinese competitors offer to pay him to teach the secrets of his trade, however, his life is put in danger.

“I can’t imagine that only two hours from my home in Rome is this war,” said Garrone. When you go there, it’s a grey zone – no exact distinction between good and bad.”

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The Italian director stood beaming on Friday night in New York as Martin Scorsese introduced a private screening of the film, concurrent with the movie’s NYFF debut. “One of the great strength’s of this picture is that there is no exit,” Scorsese told a crowd of VIP’s at a Peggy Siegal screening (hosted by distributor IFC Films and Blockbuster) at the Dolby Screening Room.

“Forget expositions, traditional narrative…you don’t know what country you are in, you dont know what city, you dont know what street it is, and you never know that,” Scorsese continued, “You’re just trapped in another planet and you’re on your own. There’s no relief, there’s no way out and even though you sense that the only way out for these people in the film is gonna be bad, no matter what happens to those people up on the screen…you know one thing, this world will continue. And its pretty unfortunate.” [Brian Brooks, with a contribution by Eugene Hernandez]

Seasons of Wong Kar Wai

The word “troubled” is often associated with Wong Kar Wai‘s early 90s film “Ashes of Time.” The first production from his company, Jet Tone, is considered a bit of a problem child. The lengthy production in the Chinese desert near Mongolia faced numerous challenges and today the acclaimed Hong Kong director calls the movie an odyssey. So, imagine his dismay when, a few years ago, he realized that the film was disintegrating. Embarking on what he called a sort of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” expedition, Wong gathered together lost elements and recontructed the film with enhanced color and new music.

Wong Kar Wai and Brigette Lin at the New York Film Festival on Friday. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

“Ashes of Time Redux,” after a debut in Cannes, hit the New York Film Festival this weekend with famous leading lady Brigette Lin — at the peak of her career when she made the film — on hand to celebrate the new version. It was her first public appearance in many years and Wong Kar Wai went out of his way to emphasize her instrumental role in supporting his early work. “Without her support, this film would not be possible.”

Beatiful imagery and a rather challenging storyline mark the martial arts story, set in a remote region of China. Structured in episodes, it was inspired by Louise Cha’s novel, “Eagle Shooting Heroes.” “The structure of ‘Ashes of Time’ is based on the Chinese calendar,” Wong explained on Friday in New York, elaborating on the seasons of the year depicted in his movie. “I just wanted to show the changes, [to] see the characters [and] the changes that they went through [even though] the seasons remain the same.”

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