Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Alternate Best Actor 2018: Marcello Fonte in Dogman

Marcello Fonte did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Marcello in Dogman.

Dogman is a decent enough film about a full time dog groomer who is dragged down by being a part time criminal in association with a bully former boxer. This is an instance of a film where while the film is not at all bad, the potential of the story does seem to suggest a far greater film could have been from the idea than what we see here.

The central conceit after all is a pretty fascinating one. In that the film essentially focuses on that weird guy usually in the corner of things of a crime film. The guy with some side business who dabbles in the criminal enterprise and is on the extreme fringe of the underworld typically as a nameless lackey. The man though does have a name here, the terribly creatively named, Marcello who we first meet in better conditions as he runs the local dog groomers, fittingly named Dogman. Fonte exudes an unabashed joy in these scenes of dog grooming as he portrays a man wholly in his element. There is nothing but affection for every moment he interacts with the dogs. Fonte delivers just this absolute unconditional love the man has towards dogs, and in turn how much he likes performing his job. Although we will find he has much outside of this life, in these moments Fonte brings an unquestioned contentment of his existence, that he theoretically should be fine with. We also have a few scenes where we see Marcello interact with his daughter. Again Fonte portrays a man who has nothing to give other than life towards his daughter. Fonte brings such a bright smile, and such welcoming physical presence of someone who really just wants to be a great dad. Again in these moments there is this joy of a man really being what should be his life. There is nothing but a simple pleasantness in these moments that Fonte portrays as exactly where Marcello belongs.

Those scenes of pleasantries though are the in-between as the outside world frequently comes in, and not just to have their dog serviced by his gentle hand. This force is essentially personified by Simone, a small time thug, who demands frequently the coke Marcello trades in. In these scenes we see a different side of his existence from the likable enough average man seemingly living a simple life. In this idea though lies the atypical approach of this film. In that typically speaking such a character would be entirely the victim. It would be easy enough even to assume that here as we see the scenes of Simone brow beating Marcello as his "friend". Fonte's reactions in these moments are particularly effective in assuming this submissive pose, not unlike a dog, with his head turned downward, and his wide eyes filled with sadness. He delivers any attempt to not do as the large man command, with the most timid fashion with such little confidence. Fonte expresses though how this bullying does not only push Marcello down, but also creates his one sense of unease within the life. The unease though being directly connected to the treatment of him, which sometimes is even in front of his daughter. Fonte shows a man essentially stuck under the man's thumb in these scenes without any real fortitude to do anything about it.

Again though the actual sympathy for Marcello can be limited by the fact that the character is wholly culpable in the criminal acts. This is further supported by Fonte's performance that portrays no hesitations whatsoever when engages in much of the amoral behavior, when he is just part of the group. Fonte doesn't hesitate in showing frankly a joy, a far less humble or endearing joy than when treating dogs, when taking part in the spoils of such a life. The only scene of any hesitation is after he and the other criminals rob a house, he has to return when one of them puts a dog in a freezer to keep it quiet. Marcello goes back to the place to rescue the dog and even nurse it back to health before leaving. It is a sweet scene where Fonte does bring an that same affection towards the dog, even in this more problematic situation. Immediately before treating the dog though is the only time we see the real regret in the actions themselves, rather the situation, but again it relates to how it effects something he loves again rather than any personal regarding the morality of the action. This might sound like some criticism on my part towards Fonte, and while showing more regrets might have made a more likable protagonists,  this is actually the right approach for the character. The reason being because this film isn't about the downfall of a good man, it is rather the lashing out of a deeply flawed one.

Marcello finds himself the one facing criminal charges and does not give up Simone for a robbery. He accepts his prison sentence then the film commits a time jump. We actually don't get to see what happens to Marcello though, but we find a rather different man on the outside. When he is attempting to interact with his old friends, and his daughter Fonte portrays the attempt of the man to still bring that same affection personality. Fonte though changes this just a touch to illustrate a little more strain of the act suggesting the appropriate loss of spirit that defined the man outside of the criminal world. Where there is a greater change is in his interactions where Marcello demands a payment from Simone, who in turn continues to try to browbeat the "dogman". Fonte though now brings a certain confidence, which is rather brilliantly performed as again in the criminal side of things, he does not portray this is as a positive change. He rather reveals again that more grotesque side of the man who took pleasure in the criminal world, as he depicts this confidence as a striking, and rather off-putting portrayal of a sinister assurance of self. As he demands money from Simone, there is now a control in Marcello, a control defined by a malicious hate by Fonte's performance though rather than a growing internalized sense of self-worth. Fonte's work is unnerving as he reveals this near psychopathy as Marcello gets his revenge by capturing Simone in his shop, then attempting to torture him.

Again the vindictiveness that Fonte brings reflects the pent up hatred of Marcello for the man, but it is also something more. There is a venom and even a glee in the act suggesting that Marcello has gone beyond the pale. This is only shortly before he ends up killing Simone (I'd write spoiler but this is given away by the film's poster rather oddly), in technically an act of self-defense, however in Fonte's eyes there is a clear sense of satisfaction. The ending of the film, which is also the strongest sequence in the film, involves Marcello trying to dispose of the body. It is an incredible scene for Fonte's work as in the moment of this physical struggle he also exposes the mental decay of the man, as in his expression we see a man mentally breaking even as he relieves himself of his greatest tormentor. There's a moment, while disposing of the body, Marcello sees his old friends and begins trying to call them to him. This is obviously an insane act given the situation, however Fonte makes this moment not only convincing for the character but rather heartbreaking. This is as he portrays as this confused outburst of need of something, anything, as he tries to find any sense of the moment. When they do not come he is instead just left with disposing the body, and Fonte depicts a moment of clarity. This has such an impact as in this scene Fonte shows the merge between the killer and that old off-beat, though lovable enough dog groomer as somber understanding of his action sweeps over his face. We finally see that humble dogman see what he's become, and it is harrowing. This is a memorable turn by Marcello Fonte, as he delivers such an off-beat yet magnetic portrayal of a man who slowly falls victim to the negative influences around him and in his own mind.

43 comments:

Robert MacFarlane said...

I won't lie, this movie sound like it's emphatically not my thing.

Calvin Law said...

I do agree that there was potential for greatness in the film that it doesn't exactly hit the heights of. Having said that, it is great work that I, also, agree with you about, though I preferred the film I think.

Calvin Law said...

Hope the remaining four are all 5's.

Charles H said...

10 fives for lead would be fulfilling

Emi Grant said...

I'm not sure why, but I have a feeling about Hawke not getting a five.

Calvin Law said...

Hawke has been alongside Toni Collette the most universally loved (critics-wise) performances of 2018. Hopefully Louis will concur.

Also, my final director and picture rankings are up: https://reelandroll.blogspot.com/2019/02/reel-and-roll-awards-best-directorbest.html

Mitchell Murray said...

Everyone: If you guys have a half hour, what are your thoughts on this video essay about musical biopics? It's a bit lengthy, but I found it to be quite enjoyable myself, and incredibly accurate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3q3LEaK7_U

Emi Grant said...

Mitchell: I literally just watched it 2 days ago, and re-watched it again today. It's quite accurate, indeed and I did find the analysis well done. The Oasis Biopic pitch sounds nice too.

Also, I think the video could have done well without the comic bits, but I didn't mind them.

Anonymous said...

Louis what would be your top ten musical biopics?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

1. Amadeus (duh)
2. I'm Not There
3. A Hard Day's Night (I'll cheat)
4. Love & Mercy
5. Coal Miner's Daughter
6. Sid & Nancy
7. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Don't you dare tell me Dewey Cox is not real)
8. Bound for Glory
9. The Buddy Holly Story
10. Born to be Blue

Charles H said...

Louis: Just for fun(since i know what the answer will be) What are you thoughts on M. Night Shyamalan as a director?

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Lucas Black as an actor?

Michael McCarthy said...

I wasn't expecting to like this performance all that much, since Fonte doesn't have the look of the "nice guy" that Marcello is meant to be, but the performance ended up sneaking up on me in a Johannes Krisch sort of way. I'm glad he was reviewed.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: And on a lighter note, your thoughts on the brawl scene and the subsequent "Boy that escalated quickly" from Anchorman? I say "lighter" because of McKays recent films of course.

Bryan L. said...

Mitchell: Thank you for sharing that with us, and I second Emi's thoughts on it. I would love to see that Oasis film that is pitched in the video.

Untitled Oasis biopic, directed by Todd Haynes and written by Oren Moverman

Liam Gallagher- Nicholas Hoult (Would just need to get a tan going on)
Noel Gallagher- Sam Claflin



Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I can totally see Hoult pulling off Liam's arrogance and difficult behaviour. An Oasis film would have a lot of potential.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Rating and thoughts on Pesce.

Anonymous said...

Louis, If Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone was filmed and released now instead of 2001 or if WB decided to make The Cursed Child, who would be your casting choice for Severus Snape.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: God forbid they ever decide to make The Cursed Child but to answer your question, based on his work in Outlander, Tobias Menzies would be the only ideal choice for me personally but you have to watch him there to be wholly convinced by it.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

An interesting question as I have not seen the entire films of what are considered his worst films other than The Happening. I also need to try to look at this not as the writer, where some of the most questionable elements of his career come into play. His work though is interesting in that you have to always take it back to his universally regarded good film The Sixth Sense. Why does that film work? Where the Happening does not? Well one is much better written by him, but there is more to it than that.

Honestly Shyamalan is an extremely limited director. He really makes similar choices, they just became more and more ill-fitting to the material. One major thing here is he's probably one of the worst "major" directors of actors. That's fine if he's working with a great actors like a Mel Gibson, a Joaquin Phoenix, a James McAvoy, a Toni Collette or a dialed in Bruce Willis or Samuel L. Jackson. A Mark Wahlberg? Not so much. He seems to try and fail to create a consistent tone within the performances, where he just seems to say go for a strange bizarre tone. This especially evident in bit players in his films, where bad performances run rampant, which would seem as though he encourages just doing, *whatever* weirdness is warranted. This approach worked for The Sixth Sense, where his "funeral home" tone worked for the performances fitting the tone, however after this he just played with this idea more and made it this grotesque display as he went on.

As visual craftsman he too takes a similar, strange approach. This occasionally works at times even in his uneven films, the birthday scene in Signs for example is very effectively done for example, but even in that film every clever choice is diminished by so many random poorly realized ones. It again is this messiness of his work that seeks a consistency, seeks a singular voice, and only finds one by being such a hodgepodge.

I'd say though honestly though the single consistency of his work honestly though is that there is always a sense of self-seriousness in his work, no matter how ludicrous the concept, one of the great reasons why The Happening was so hilarious (and don't by his Tommy Wiseau style revisionism on that one). He refuses to ever wink to the audience, even in those weird scene, which is evident in his lack of natural humor, but also in his glacial pacing of scenes. Shymalan's been compared to Spielberg and Hitchcock, but he really directs in a way closer to a Michael Haneke. In sort of the way of having the viewer "absorb" a scene. Shyamalan's choice in subject matter and genre though makes this
an ill-fitting approach that not only makes so many of his films often feel like a chore, but also ensures that tonal mess.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Lucas Black is definitely a limited actor however not in a way that should be too problematic. In that in the right naturalistic tone, his obviously untrained style works well for films like Sling Blade and Get Low. There his performance works as what he is trying to do is bring a most sincerest form of reality and there is where he shines. Where he seems to struggle is "altered" reality. As his work in Fast and Furious is more than a little awkward, which isn't a series known for great acting, however one needs to bring a heightened reality in their work to be able to thrive in such a tone. I don't think he has really a lot of range when it comes to tone or genre, however if the film is just being realistic, his natural talent comes out, and is utilized properly.

Best directed scene of McKay's career by far, and everyone needs to stop being his enabler. Everyone needs to collectively push him back in that direction as fast as possible. Anyway though the brawl is a hilarious scene that I'll give full credit to in the comedic timing of every moment, especially in the introductions of the cameos, and the great one liners "dead place", "no Commercial No Mercy!", and "The Sewers run red with Burgundy's Blood". Then the brawl itself does not disappoint in the sheer madness from the grenade, to the planet of the Apes and of course the trident. What's actually great about the scene is how well timed it all is. Take that in comparison to the sequel scene (which is the only scene I've seen from that), which is so laborious, with way too many cameos, which pile up, yet none manage to be remotely funny. Anyways the original is a great scene, with that cut away to that line being the perfect hilarious topper.

Luke:

Pesce - 3.5(Guess I wasn't quite as impressed by this performance as some seem to be, as I didn't think what he did here was particularly distinctive. Having said that he does what is needed for the part well in bringing the brash bully without overplaying the quality, which is commonly done. It is a good performance as he manages to bring enough nuance even within such a limited role.)

Anonymous:

I'll co-sign on Menzies, as though I haven't seen Outlander, from what I've seen from him, he has the right presence for the part.

Wouldn't want to see Cursed Child as a film though.

Bryan L. said...

Tahmeed: I think Hoult could play it as an obnoxious, rock-star version of his Robert Hartley, and he's around the same height as well. Noels' a bit more difficult to cast, but I think Claflin could pull it off.

Louis: Apparently, Vice has not been a box office hit, so maybe he'll have trouble getting financing for his next "serious" film (knock on wood.) Although he seems to have no problem convincing high-profile actors to work with him, so who knows.

Matt Mustin said...

Bryan L: No way. The executives will look at the combined awards success of The Big Short and Vice and not have a second's hesitation in green-lighting whatever he wants to do next.

Bryan L. said...

Matt: True, but a man can hope...

His next film is supposed to star Jennifer Lawrence as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, which I think is going to just be a bad version of Molly's Game, and that film's far from great.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Sadly McKay's well protected by his current "prestige" and while Vice didn't do overly well it wasn't a flop.

Ooooh looking forward to his next obnoxious narrative device to condescend to us how much he thinks he knows about research and corporate fraud.

Luke Higham said...

Since we're talking about Vice, I hope the real critics choice is being reviewed next. Been looking forward to his review for a year and a half now.

Mitchell Murray said...

My review of Ryan Gosling (First Man) has now been posted. Just thought I'd mention it here.

https://leadactorawards.blogspot.com/

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Ah damn.

Speaking of Lawrence, what kind of film do you envision costarring Winter's Bone J-Law and Frozen River Melissa Leo? Since it's peculiar that they've both had similar career trajectories, as you mentioned when you covered the latter's performance.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan:

Hopefully something quiet and naturalistic. Maybe in a film by Jeff Nichols, as indeed their "big" performances don't at all suit their strengths as performers, and I'm already dreading that Lawrence in a McKay film performance.

Luke Higham said...

Yeah, since The Big Short I've long feared that McKay would be another O. Russell but worse and Vice fully realized it.

Louis: Are there any Actors you would love to see work with Nolan and PTA. I hope Tom Hardy will get to lead Nolan's next film as long as it's not the Howard Hughes biopic.

Bryan L. said...

Luke: I actually wonder if Nolan's next film IS the Howard Hughes biopic, and him casting his original choice of Jim Carrey under EXTREME wraps sounds like something he'd do. Nolan did say that he'll revisit that script some day.

I'd like to see what Gosling would do in a Nolan film btw.

Omar Franini said...

Louis: I’m glad you liked this performance, i would give him a strong 5, the ending sequence is one of my favourite from this year. Thoughts on the direction and cinematography?

Calvin Law said...

I saw A Private War. Disagree completely on Pike, Louis, but I do see where you’re coming from.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What were your favourite Kermode reviews of 2018 and do you intend on seeing The Kid Who Would Be King at some point. It's sitting quite well with me and Serkis Jr. definitely is a talent to look out for in the future.

Charles H said...

I would like to see Jake Gyllenhaal in a PTA film. As for Nolan i hope Jim Carrey plays Howard Hughes, & Tom Hardy leads in future film of is.

Calvin Law said...

Has anyone seen Jesus Christ Superstar with John Legend? Actually not half bad.

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: It's great, but I think Legend was kinda miscast vocally.

Calvin Law said...

Matt: He was but I thought it was a valiant effort. The rest of the cast was perfect though.

Michael McCarthy said...

Calvin: I've seen it and I really dug it. Also I know Brandon Victor Dixon's mother personally so it was great seeing him kill it as Judas.

Louis Morgan said...

Omar:

I liked Garrone's direction for the most part. There are some single sequences that he approaches in rather brilliantly, particularly the finale, the confrontation, and I love the scenes with dogs that he lenses with such loving detail. I do think he occasionally falls into mood padding, where the pacing slows down to fulfill the running time more than to create atmosphere. This never too problematic, but it did take the film down for me a little bit.

The cinematography I felt was rather inconsistent, though not in a good/bad way, but rather a great/decent way. It occasionally over does wandering closeups, and often times the lighting choices are random, though not bad. I love though a lot of the establishing shots though that are filled with a real mood and atmosphere. There the lighting, framing and composition is far more striking, particularly that final shot.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Nolan loves pulling out somewhat obscured actors so John Lone of course. I'd love to see PTA work with John C. Reilly again.

Kermode:

Can you Ever Forgive Me?
Burning
Three Identical Strangers



I'll probably see it eventually.

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