116 minutes, Italy-France, 2012, Subtitled, Colour, D-Cinema

Matteo Garrone’s follow-up to his organised crime epic Gomorrah tackles another defining current in Italian lives – the mesmerising fascination of their truly tacky variation on Big Brother.

Naples’ mind-boggling contrasts of grinding poverty and fake opulence set the context for this cautionary tale in which fishmonger Luciano’s desire to win a place on the next annual edition utterly subsumes his every waking hour. Having seen the fortune last year’s winner is now raking in from personal appearances – we see him suspended above a discotheque throng like some latterday angel – Luciano evidently longs for a way out of the slums, yet as his obsession develops hallucinatory intensity it’s clear Garrone intends a modern parable about the social and moral disintegration accompanying this new TV religion and its tawdry icons.

As such, the film makes a valiant effort to find a new angle on admittedly familiar material, all vividly enhanced by Aniello Arena’s heartfelt central performance and Garrone’s Fellini-esque eye for the irresistibly grotesque. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

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