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Dogman is a Treat for Italian Cinema Fans

3 min read

The effects of bullying, no matter what your age, is the central premise of Magnolia Pictures Dogman from director Mattero Garrone. Marcello (Marcello Fonte) resides in a quaint, beachside Italian town with his daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria). Marcello spends his days grooming dogs. Due to his talent, he has earned the nickname “Dogman” by the townsfolks.

By night, Marcello deals cocaine. One of Marcello’s customers includes town bully and former boxer Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce). Marcello’s primary reason for dealing cocaine is to fund lavish scuba diving trips for himself and his daughter, not realizing his desire to show his daughter affection from a monetary standpoint isn’t the best route to go.

While the film has other actors, Dogman truly belongs to the characters of Simoncino and Marcello. I found the acting from both men strong.   As Simoncino, Edoardo Pesce easily evokes fear, while Marcello conveys a delicate mix of naïveté and nobility.

The character arc that scriptwriters Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, and Massimo Gaudioso create for both men is an allegory for acceptance by your peers. Simoncino is unpredictable and violent. He is chasing the highs of his boxing popularity. I felt his behavior stems from his failure as a prizefighter. Marcello has the acceptance of the townspeople and will do anything to keep it. The choices Marcello makes are heartbreaking to watch. This script gives the notion that the behavior of a small town, lacking anything to live for, is not justified but makes sense.

One of my favorite things about the film is the title and  it’s dual interpretations . While Marcello is the dog groomer in town, I cannot help but wonder if subconsciously the intent was to paint Simoncino as the true dog man. Marcello appears to see Simoncino as a “dog” as opposed to a man and will do anything for his respect.

While viewing the film, I realized that the story could take place in any small town and the effect would be the same. Director Mattero Garrone paints a bleak picture of the Italian town where our action takes place. Should Dogman ever have an American remake, I’m curious to see who would take on our two leading roles and where it would take place.

Given that Dogman is an Italian film, the film is subtitled. However the emotions that the actors convey with their facial expressions are so strong, spoken dialogue isn’t needed.  This sentiment is particularly true for Simone because any time he uses brute force to bully someone, his eyes show an evil soul.

As the credits rolled on Dogman, I found myself wondering what I would do in Marcello’s shoes.  There were times in my life, when I’ve done things all for the acceptance from bullies or to avoid the wrath of a bully.

Dogman succeeds as a worthy addition to Italian cinema. There are homages to the Italian neorealism style of the forties, which focuses on the struggles of the poor and working class while the cinematography style recalls the Italian western. The film may not be for all tastes, if you are a fan of foreign films, I recommended Dogman.

Final Grade: B