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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Italian Dolby Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • Five Stories, a 60-minute documentary on the making of Gomorrah
  • New video interviews with Garrone and actor Toni Servillo
  • Interviews with writer Roberto Saviano and actors Gianfelice Imparato and Salvatore Cantalupo
  • Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer

Gomorrah


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Toni Servillo, Salvatore Abruzzese, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Cantalupo, Gigio Morra, Marco Macor
2008 | 137 Minutes | Licensor: IFC Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #493
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 24, 2009
Review Date: November 8, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah is a stark, shocking vision of contemporary gangsterdom, and one of cinema's most authentic depictions of organized crime. In this tour de force adaptation of undercover Italian reporter Roberto Saviano's best-selling exposé of Naples' Mafia underworld (known as the Camorra), Garrone links five disparate tales in which men and children are caught up in a corrupt system that extends from the housing projects to the world of haute couture. Filmed with an exquisite detachment interrupted by bursts of violence, Gomorrah is a shattering, socially engaged true-crime story from a major new voice in Italian cinema.

Forum members rate this film 7.7/10

 

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PICTURE

The first release to come from Criterion’s and IFC’s new deal, Matteo Garrone’s 2008 critical hit Gomorrah is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on the first dual-layer disc of this two disc set and has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

I must admit to being a little disappointed with the DVD transfer, though it may be due to the fact I ended up seeing the Blu-ray first (I usually watch the DVD before the Blu-ray but in this case I received a copy of the Blu-ray first) and that could have affected my opinion. The DVD transfer looks a little softer than I would have expected and detail is lacking feeling it just looks a little fuzzier than it should as a whole. There are some digital artifacts found throughout including noise and mild edge-enhancement, and some of the more vibrant colours in the film can look a little blocky around the edges. Other than that issue with the more vibrant colours, though, they do look nicely saturated and blacks are adequate.

The print looks fine, as I would have expected for such a new film, but the digital transfer itself could be better, even for a DVD. It’s decent enough and more than watchable but my expectations were a little higher for this one.

7/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion’s Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track suits the film perfectly. Though not as robust as the Blu-ray’s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track it’s effective enough, presenting a fairly immersive environment. The film’s soundtrack is quiet for the most part, though it has it’s sudden louder moments of violence. Dialogue sounds sharp and crisp, as does music, which is subtle but manages to work its way to the back speakers. While it is a quieter track than one would probably expect for a film of this type, the more violent moments are quite loud and sudden and fill out the sound environment beautifully. Quite effective overall.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

I wasn’t sure what to make of Criterion’s new deal with IFC Films at first (Criterion previously licenced only one film from them, Alfonso Cauron’s Solo con tu pareja) the deal in effect making them the primary distributor for special editions of a selection of their films on DVD and Blu-ray, a lot of which would be newer films. Unlike a small group of others I have no issue with them distributing newer films, and I honestly think Gomorrah is a perfect candidate for Criterion. I also knew (or at least figured) their transfers would be up to their usual standards. But I feared their supplements would be more studio pieces (similar to Benjamin Button) and wouldn’t be the usual Criterion features that offer a more scholarly and/or analytical slant. Thankfully this isn’t the case, though the film being so new does limit the material in some regards.

The first disc is devoted primarily to the film and contains no supplements apart from the theatrical trailer, which is IFC’s American trailer and unfortunately not the Italian trailer. The remaining supplements are found on the second dual-layer disc.

First up on the second disc is a 62-minute documentary called ”Gomorrah”: Five Short Stories. I have to admit at first it wasn’t impressing me, coming off as your standard “fly-on-the-wall” documentary where the camera just sits there capturing the making of the film and I didn’t think it would offer anything truly eye-opening. But thankfully it gets more interesting as it progresses, offering insight into Garrone’s semi-improv style, which becomes obvious when he starts yelling at his actors to not repeat the same lines again and again during each take, either using different, improvised (and I guess more natural) lines or not saying anything at all, but still capture the essence of the scene. The documentary is broken out by each story, so there are five sections to the doc (with the section on the Marco and Ciro segments taking up a bigger chunk of the doc in comparison with the others.) There are some interesting discussions about scene set-ups, examination of some of the locals hanging around the set (a lot of whom I can only assume are gang members,) and an amusing bit around a scenes that involves children driving dump trucks. It might not seem like much at first but sit it out and you’ll get a fairly rewarding making-of documentary.

I am guessing that doc (and a few other features) appeared on DVDs from other regions and Criterion ported them over. But they’ve still provided some of their own exclusive features, starting with an interview with director Matteo Garrone. In this 22-minute feature Garrone talks about the novel on which the film is based and the long process of getting it turned into a movie, which was made more difficult by issues that included death threats. He discusses his directing style, management of budget and time, his vision for the film, influences (Rossellini’s Paisan being a large one,) shooting on location, and the importance of faces.

It’s an excellent interview, as is the next one also filmed by Criterion, featuring actor Toni Servillo. Running 13-minutes the actor talks about his role in Gomorrah, offering his opinions and insights into his character, and mentions what attracted him to the script, specifically that the intertwining stories reminded him of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. He makes comparisons between the film and the book and recalls his 12-day shoot fondly and what it was like to work Garrone. Short but thorough.

A 10-minute segment called Actors appears to be a feature ported from what I would assume to be the Italian DVD release. This feature gathers together actors Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, and Salvatore Cantalupo. Each actor talks about the characters and the stories centered around them, and then touch on the improve nature to Garrone’s directing, working with him, and the filming on location. It’s a bit fluffy, though still manages to convey some interesting information. Servillo’s solo interview is a little better overall.

To cover the real life events that were used as the basis for Gomorrah, and to offer more insight into the Camorra, the mafia-like organization at the center of the film, Criterion includes a 43-minute interview with author Roberto Saviano, the author of the book on which the film is based. It’s divided into five chapters and each section in one way or another covers the real events behind the film’s stories as well as offering more insight into the organization including its structure, how members move ahead, the media’s coverage, innocents that have been caught in the crossfire, how kids are drawn in, and then even offers a better back story to the era he’s covering, which involved a feud breaking out that broke up the group into clans. It’s a tad longer than it needs to be but it’s a great addition if only for offering more information on the actual syndicate.

The disc then closes with 12-minutes of deleted scenes and make up six in total. The scenes in question feel more like transition pieces and while a couple of them are interesting (specifically a scene surrounding issues with a waste disposal site) I can’t say the film would have benefitted any more with them and they were probably cut more for pacing reasons. On their own they’re interesting to watch but that’s about it.

The DVD then includes a 16-page booklet featuring an essay on the film by Check Stephens, who offers a decent analysis on the film and covers its more obvious influences such as Paisan and even Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano.

A commentary may have been good, a scholarly one specifically, but the features, though maybe slim when compared to other Criterion releases, covers the film fairly well and are all interesting to view.

7/10

CLOSING

Criterion’s DVD for Gomorrah is a decent release, though I expected more from the video transfer considering how new the film is. Despite the condition of the film being excellent the digital transfer seems a little softer than what I had expected. The supplements, while not completely up to Criterion’s usual scholarly materials, are all informative and interesting and cover the film and its subject matter reasonably well.


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