August 29, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

Gimme Lessa Gomorrah

What’s in the movies isn’t always true or pretty, but sometimes it is true and ugly. And you come out kind of reeling with the relief that you don’t have to live in that narrative. So it was with Gomorrah, a fictionalised documentary about the Naples Comorrah mafia.
It would be hard to find a more striking contrast to the stylish, proud Italy of designer clothes and furniture, or the lush decadence of Caravaggio long ago. The Italy of the mafia has no beautiful people, no sense of a good or caring or even competent society. No wonder Roberto Saviano, who wrote the book the film is based on, is watching his back. Knives and bullets are never far away for the hapless residents, and escaping from the tentacles of corruption is not easy.
At the other side of the Atlantic, Notorious is a film about a rap star, Biggie Small, his life and death. I knew the rap culture had some crime, but not to the extent shown in this movie. I’ve remarked before that everything I need to know I learn at the movies, and now I have seen enough of the Mafia and rap culture to keep well away from both.
Emerging stereotypes populate both films: the infiltration of Chinese into new business arenas, and the old-new/west coast- east coast rivalries in the US. Well that second one is not new, but its manifestation in rap gangs probably is more recent. Thirty years ago there was research about Black English Vernacular, and rap culture has helped to entrench it. The dialect in the Mafia movie and the semi-gangsta rap language were equally out of my range, my native tongue not helping much with the BEV.
Always good to come home, and even the chill of a Canberra winter is welcome after an evening in someone else’s nightmare world. The pleasing almost-spring scenes on the remaining streets in the Parliamentary Triangle that haven’t been given over to apartments reflect the bucolic public service culture. Lucky us! Our government works pretty well, most of the time.
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Or so I am able to convince myself, until reality jolts again. Front page, Canberra Times, today: lotsa big trees will be chopped down on City Hill to make way for the development. More shops, of course, forget the design of Canberra, and they haven’t worked out how to calm the traffic around that small but precious treed hill. Another chip at the historic centre of the capital, which is almost now old enough to be a feature. The Melbourne and Sydney Buildings will look seedy next to shiny windows – I imagine Moscow has similar conflicts, and that they are resolved more like in Gomorrah than in Barton.
What isn’t valued gets lost, be it trees or heritage or good government. But there is hope, as the Libs and the Greens in the ACT have agreed to ‘work together’ on an issue. I suppose the ordinances controlling the display of advertising material in front of shops is pretty important, but I can’t help thinking it’s not quite what I would have liked from a party with the balance of power. Go Greens! But forward, please. It’s so hard to get worked up about ACT politics, as no one seems to take on the bigger issues of planning with vision. But at least no pollies here have water boards or guns.
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Posted by Ronda Jambe at 1:16 pm | Comments Off on Gimme Lessa Gomorrah |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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