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Dark comedy at UWM Theatre’s Italian Film Festival

Apr. 21, 2014
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Reality TV is the opiate of the idiots in Reality, a dark Italian comedy featured in this year’s Italian Film Festival. Director Matteo Garrone focuses on Luciano (Aniello Arena), an amiable Neapolitan fishmonger addicted to a reality show called “Grande Fratello” (“Big Brother”), whose Orwellian implications are over the heads of its core audience. An idea sticks inside Luciano’s mind: he should be selected for the cast from the thousands of contestants that flock to the show’s studio at Cinecittà, the Italian Hollywood (and factory of dreams).

The inspiration for his obsession starts in the opening scene when Luciano and his family attend the wedding of a distant relative, a fantasy affair in which bride and groom emerge from an 18th-century carriage drawn by white horses and attended by hotel staff in Palace of Versailles costumes. The guest of honor, Enzo, is “Big Brother’s” current star, an arrogant Mr. Cool who turns his charm on (and off) like a faucet.

Convinced that the show’s producers are spying on him to verify his claim of being a “person with incredible, moving stories,” Luciano sells his fish stand and gives away most of his possessions—not from newfound social conscience but to give “Big Brother” a moving story. As his delusion grows and gnaws into his life like a cancer, his flustered wife (Loredana Simioli) considers taking the children and leaving.

Tellingly, Luciano dons makeup and performs at family functions as a clown. He is a fool indeed, but his weak-mindedness is only different in degree, not in kind, from most of his neighbors, who are just as enthralled with “Big Brother.” Unlike them, Luciano interprets Enzo’s motivational shout-outs (“Hold on to your dream!”) literally, never measuring the distance from dream to delusion to nightmare.

Reality screens at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 26 as part of the Italian Film Festival USA of Milwaukee. The festival runs April 25-27 at the UW-Milwaukee Union Theatre, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. Admission is free. For more information, visit italianfilmfests.org.


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