Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Chile/Brazil, 2008. Fabula Productions, Fabula, Latina Estudio Prodigital, Latina Estudio. Screenplay by Alfredo Castro, Mateo Iribarren, Pablo Larraín. Cinematography by Sergio Armstrong. Produced by Juan de Dios Larrain. Music by Juan Cristóbal Meza. Production Design by Polin Garbizu. Costume Design by Muriel Parra. Film Editing by Anrea Chignoli. Toronto International Film Festival 2008.
This portrait of celebrity obsession under an extreme political situation is a dark and ugly mood you won’t soon shake off. Raul lives alone in the grimy outskirts of Santiago, he has few friends and occupies himself mainly in two activities: putting together dances with other members of a small bar and going to the movies to watch John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever over and over again. His little troupe is preparing for a performance that will be based around the popularity of disco, while on television a local variety show hosts lookalike contests once a week and Raul is planning to win the one that is looking for the best imitation of Travolta’s character Tony Manero. Nothing will get in his way to procure the things he wants, a colour television, glass blocks to light the club’s small wooden dance floor or a pristine white suit for the competition, and why should it? He is living under Pinochet’s military dictatorship, where there is no morality, only aggression, so if he wants to beat a few people to death (including a harmless old woman in an early scene that really sets the film’s nerve-wracking tone), what is there to stop him? An overriding sense of hopelessness is contrasted with Larrain’s energetic direction, there’s never a sense that the film is pretentiously sitting around forcing you to learn any moral lessons. Alfredo Castro‘s fearless performance in the lead keeps things grounded in the film’s fascinating character study of madness left unchecked under an amoral regime.