Luciano (Anielo Arena) in "Reality."

Luciano (Aniello Arena) in “Reality.”

I am a bit torn as to my reaction to the new Italian movie “Reality.”   It is a film that has raised a lot of questions for me.   On the one hand “Reality” is a very strange, insightful meditation on the nature of being a media star, or rather the potential that one could be a media star.  After all, don’t we all want to be on television?  On the other hand, I found “Reality” to be way too long for what was and not the movie I wanted it to be.  Is it wrong to criticize a movie for not heading in the direction in which I wanted it to go?

 The film’s trailer had me thinking that “Reality” would be an Italian version of “Slum Dog Millionaire” (2008) the Oscar winning film about a poverty stricken boy in India who winds up being a contestant on India’s version of the American TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  “Reality” is about  Luciano (Aniello Arena), a likeable, working class man who wants to be  on the Italian version of the American reality TV show “Big Brother.”   Luciano sees it as chance not just to be on television but to solve all of his financial problems.  “Reality” also reminded me of the movie “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), in which Ellen Burstyn’s character, Sarah Goldfarb, desperately wants to be on a reality TV show and goes to dangerous extremes to try to make this happen. 

I will not reveal what eventually happens to Luciano, except to say that some of the frustration I experienced  in dealing with the length of “Reality” may have been intentional on the part of the film’s director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorra,” 2008).  In other words like Luciano, I, the viewer, am waiting for something to happen.  If this is the case, is it fair for the filmmaker to keep me waiting, especially if I am not particularly enjoying the ride?  On the plus side, Garrone proves to have a refreshing visual sense in his use of long takes.  In other words he does not rely solely on editing to make his scenes work.  He lets the camera run and his actors, well, act.  The result is a very natural interchange between his characters.

So, a mixed bag from me.  “Reality” may be one of those films that requires a second viewing.

“Reality” is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street.



About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 28, 2013, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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