It is no secret that some filmmakers hate critics, but Matteo Garrone might be more sympathetic to the art of criticism — his father was an Italian theater critic. And critics loved him back when his epic Neapolitan crime drama, “Gomorrah,” took their breath away. His latest film, “Dogman,” may be a tougher sell. The film premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film festival to mixed reviews, earning derision from IndieWire critic David Ehrlich for what he deemed a lack of subtlety and heavy handed use of allegory.
The official synopsis reads: “In a seaside village on the outskirts of an Italian city, where the only law seems to be survival of the fittest, Marcello is a slight, mild-mannered man who divides his days between working at his modest dog grooming salon, caring for his daughter Alida, and being coerced into the petty criminal schemes of the local bully Simoncino, an ex-boxer who terrorizes the neighborhood. When Simoncino’s abuse finally brings Marcello to a breaking point, he decides to stand up for his own dignity through an act of vengeance, with unintended consequences.”
While acknowledging the film’s merits, Ehrlich gave “Dogman” a C, writing: “If only this sleepy and laconic film weren’t so paralyzed by its need to function as a dull parable. All of its warmth and all of its humor (and there are plenty of both in the early stretches) are usurped by a metaphor that doesn’t have any oxygen to spare for such things, and the simplicity of that metaphor is constantly exposed by the grittiness of Garrone’s social-realist approach.”
Despite its flaws, “Dogman” did earn its lead actor, Marcello Fonte, the Best Actor Award at Cannes.
Magnolia Pictures will release “Dogman” in theaters April 12, 2019. Check out the trailer (including a very large dog getting the tiniest of manicures) below.