Reality TV, celebrity obsession hit Cannes screens

Fri May 18, 2012 7:27am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

CANNES (Reuters) - Obsession with celebrity is the focus of Italian director Matteo Garrone's new movie "Reality" at the Cannes film festival, one of two pictures in the lineup exploring the corrosive power of instant fame and the desire to be watched.

Garrone is best known for his last film, the gritty "Gomorrah" about a Naples crime syndicate. But with "Reality" he switches gears, creating a modern day fairy tale whose protagonist's soul is slowly and inexorably eroded by the lure of fame.

The second film, screening outside the main competition on Saturday, is "Antiviral," the debut feature of Brandon Cronenberg, son of Canadian director David Cronenberg. Its plot follows a clinic worker who sells fans injections of viruses harvested from sick celebrities.

In "Reality," Lorenzo is an affable Naples fishmonger and loving father and husband whose family convinces him to try out for the reality TV show "Big Brother."

Garrone chose as his main actor Aniello Arena, whom he discovered working in a prison theatre troupe. Arena, who is still serving his term, was allowed out of prison during the days to film but returned to custody in the evenings. He was not allowed to accompany the rest of the cast to Cannes.

"Never give up your dreams!" Lorenzo is told by the television crew who audition him for a spot on the show. Lorenzo is convinced it's only a matter of time before he receives the call saying he's been picked, and his status in his small community gets an instant lift.

As the days drag on and the call doesn't come, however, Lorenzo's obsession grows, and his hold on reality wavers. He starts to believe that crew from the TV show are spying on him, to determine if he would be a good pick for the show.

"What are they thinking about me?" he worries in his mind, in which he already plays a starring role. He sells his fish business so he'll have money to fix up their home.   Continued...

Director Matteo Garrone poses during a photocall for the film "Reality", in competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 18, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler