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.
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