Five things to know about Dogman, Italy’s Oscar pick

Dogman, the latest film by Italian director Matteo Garrone, was selected this week as Italy's candidate for the foreign language Oscar. Here's why it's well worth a watch.

Five things to know about Dogman, Italy's Oscar pick
The promotional poster for Dogman, Matteo Garrone's film about a dog groomer turned murderer.

1. It's made by the man behind Gomorrah

If Matteo Garrone's name sounds familiar, it's because he's the director behind one of Italy's best-known films of recent years: Gomorrah, the Naples mafia saga based on Roberto Saviano's book of the same title.

That movie was also picked as Italy's entry to the Oscars, exactly ten years ago – but despite international success and a Grand Prix from the Cannes Film Festival, it failed to make the shortlist. 

Can Dogman do better? The Academy will announce its nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film on January 22nd, with the Oscar to be awarded on February 24th.

2. It's based on a true story that's even more shocking

Dogman is inspired by the real-life case of Er Canaro (“the dog keeper), a pet groomer and drug addict who, in 1988, murdered one of his criminal acquaintances in his Rome salon. 

The crime became infamous when the killer – real name Pietro De Negri – claimed to have subjected his victim, a local thug named Giancarlo Ricci, to hours of gruesome torture, including cutting off his fingers and tongue, castrating him and cutting open his skull. An autopsy later found that Ricci's injuries didn't match that account, with the supposed mutilations either inflicted after death or not at all.

If all that has left you feeling a little queasy, don't worry: Garrone doesn't claim to stick to the true story and most of the goriest details are left out of his version, which concentrates instead on the tense dynamic between bully and bullied.

That hasn't stopped some speculating that Dogman will prove too violent for genteel Academy voters, however: many suspect that it was Gomorrah's stark portrayal of mafia violence that cost that film a place on the shortlist and Dogman, while not especially graphic, is certainly psychologically tough – so much so that Italy's film board rated it over-14s only.

3. It was filmed in an Italian 'ghost town'

The real Canaro lived in Magliana, a historically deprived area in the south-west of Rome, and Garrone's version takes place in an unnamed neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital.

But the film was shot further south, in Villaggio Coppola: a town built on the coast of Campania in the 1960s as a seaside haven for holidaymakers and wealthy residents, but now largely abandoned. Erected without proper permits and accused of damaging the natural environment, most of the remaining houses have been left to scavengers and decay. Only a handful are occupied by determined residents and squatters.

A view of the sea from Villaggio Coppola. Photo: Mimmo Domenico Russo – CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr

The windswept seafront, close-set apartment blocks and rusting playground are the perfect backdrop for Garrone's bleak tale of crime, drugs and community.

4. Its star was discovered by chance

The film hangs on an extraordinary central performance by Marcello Fonte, who manages to bring pathos and even humour (honestly!) to the role of the titular Dogman.

Slight, funny-faced Fonte – who stands 1.6 metres tall, or 5'3″ – is hardly your typical leading man. Born in Calabria, he spent years taking tiny parts before Garrone gave him his big break, almost by accident. The director was talent-scouting among ex-prisoners when one auditionee fell ill; Fonte, who was part of a group occupying the community centre where the casting was taking place, stepped in.

Garrone was immediately impressed by the actor, who he has described as “the modern-day Buster Keaton, almost a silent movie actor”. Fonte's performance in Dogman, his first in a leading role, earned him the award for best actor at Cannes.

Marcello Fonte. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

5. Its canine cast are already award winners

Fonte isn't the only member of the cast to have a victory under their – ahem – collars already: the dogs who played his customers were rewarded for their contributions with the Palm Dog Award, the unofficial Cannes prize for best animal performance.

The award went to the entire canine cast and was accepted by Joy the chihuahua, who steals the show in a memorable scene involving the Dogman, a burglary and a freezer.

Other dogs featured include a bulldog, Great Dane, Hungarian sheepdog and a very fluffy poodle. We can confirm that they are all good boys.

Photo: Screengrab/YouTube


French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.