Italy’s new ‘Buster Keaton’ wins best actor at Cannes

A little-known Italian actor -- who was working as a caretaker when he was discovered -- won best actor at Cannes film festival on Saturday for his portrayal of a cocaine-dealing dog groomer who faces down a local heavy in an urban western.

Italy's new 'Buster Keaton' wins best actor at Cannes
Italian actor Marcello Fonte poses with the Best Actor Prize for his part in "Dogman" at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP
Before being cast by Matteo Garrone of “Gomorrah” fame in “Dogman”, a brutal modern parable of the little guy who can take no more, Marcello Fonte from southern Italy had played only minor parts.
He was an extra in Martin Scorsese's “Gangs of New York” (2002) and played a small role in Alice Rohrwacher's 2011 “Corpo Celeste”, about a teenager trying to find her place in a Church-dominated Calabria. 
Garrone met Fonte by accident at a social centre where he went to spot talent among former prisoners auditioning for parts in a play. 
“Marcello was the caretaker, he was sleeping in the centre. He was listening in on the auditions when one day when one of the ex-prisoners fell ill and died and he took his place.”
From there it was a short hop to “Dogman” for the diminutive actor with the big smile and sunken cheeks, whose features reminded Garrone of a bygone Italy. 
“He is the modern-day Buster Keaton, almost a silent movie actor”, the director said.
For IndieWire reviewer David Ehrlich he played the part of the soft-spoken divorced pooch pamperer “to perfection”.
'Scorsese the Scotsman' 
Fonte moved to Rome as a teenager to try make his name in the movies.
“I made all the mistakes possible, there's not one I missed,” the slightly-built thespian said.
In a recent interview he related how you land a part “when you're nothing and have no connections”.
“I would go see the wardrobe people and say 'the director sent me' and they would end up finding me a costume.”
So it was like that he found himself appearing alongside Leonardo di Caprio and Daniel Day Lewis in “Gangs of New York” — despite never having heard of the director.
“He heard Scozzese and thought he must be a Scotsman”, Garrone told AFP, laughing.
For “Dogman” he spent three months in a dog parlour to learn how to gussy up pit bulls and chihuahuas. The film is loosely based on a true story in Rome in the late 1980s. Fonte's character, also called Marcello, is relentlessly bullied and betrayed by his friend Simone, a cocaine-snorting local heavy.
Marcello passes up multiple opportunities to bump off his tormentor and while Simone eventually gets his just desserts the dogman remains a sympathetic figure to the end.
“My character never becomes violent,” Fonte told reporters in Cannes this week. “He is like a flower on a dungheap that remains white, or at least grey, which is never completely sullied.”


Actress Asia Argento: Cannes was Weinstein’s ‘hunting ground’

Asia Argento, the Italian actress who has said she was raped by disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein at the Cannes film festival, said he would never be welcome there again.

Actress Asia Argento: Cannes was Weinstein's 'hunting ground'
Italian actress Asia Argento gestures on stage during the closing ceremony of the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: VALERY HACHE / AFP
“Shoplifters”, a heartwrenching family tale by Japanese veteran director Hirokazu Kore-eda, may have won the Palme d'Or top prize at the Cannes film festival on Saturday, but the most stunning moment of the night came when Argento, who has said she was raped by Weinstein at Cannes in 1997, took the microphone and vowed to fight for justice for other victims.
“This festival was his hunting ground,” said Argento, who says she was 21 when Weinstein attacked her in his hotel room. 
“Even tonight sitting among you there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women. We know who you are and we are not going to allow you to get away with it any longer,” she said to cheers from the audience.
Minutes before the actress took the stage police in Paris said they had opened a criminal probe against one of France's best-known directors, “The Fifth Element” maker Luc Besson, for allegedly raping an actress.
The #MeToo movement permeated this year's awards. Hollywood stars including Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Helen Mirren and Salma Hayek and directors Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins joined a red-carpet protest to demand equal opportunities for women and a “safe workplace”. Two days later, festival organisers signed a pledge to encourage more diversity in its selection by 2020.