Thursday, November 15, 2012
My relation with Pablo Larraín has been intense to say the least as his filmmaking and storytelling style has impressed me above any expectations I had about his films. He is brutal, unconventional, unique and quite unexpected while telling very-hard to digest not-so-evident stories. Then with this background buried deep in my mind I saw NO and almost everything I knew about him went into new directions.
NO is different, no fantastic deadpan performances by actors, no two-acts, no slow pace and no impeccable cinematography. But he is still unique, unexpected and unconventional in perhaps his most easier to watch film up-to-date. So easy that becomes easier to get lost and see only the evident story about the campaign and miss the impressive nuances impregnated along this ride into a known destination.
For those familiar with Chile's history the end to this story is well-known as October 5, 1988 is a date that not many around the world have forgotten. So for them and me this film is about the ride and be prepared for a fantastic ride, a layered very unexpected thrilling-bordering ride that could hit you hard in many levels, including one that affected me more than I was prepared for as a person that spent her life working in advertising. As yes, this story is also a great case study in advertising. I am so tempted to analyze the advertising case study here but then this is a movie blog, so will not and will concentrate in only analyzing the movie without anything related to this theme. Sigh.
Many, especially in the English-language, comment that this film is the third in a trilogy about Pinochet but as the director himself says, it is not. He says that is only a coincidence as the idea came from a Canadian producer that read the stage play "Plesbiscito" by Antonio Skármeta (play has never been staged) and was interested in doing a black comedy about advertising; Larraín's team didn't like the idea but the original idea was profoundly transformed when screenplay writer Pedro Peirano did his in-depth research looking forward to impregnate more realism to the story. The final screenplay in the hands of Larraín transforms to the screen into an almost documentary-drama from another era as one of the key elements in this film is the cinematography look that probably will "hurt" the eyes of many as was filming using the "old U-matic 3/4" 1983 Ikegami cameras.
While many, especially in the English-language, speculate about the reason-why Larraín decided to film with such low-definition the reason became evident to me while watching and yes I confirm it after. Film has many, and here many means a lot, real footage of the era including some takes filmed by Larraín while events happened as well as the original ad plus more. If he had used contemporary high-definition the movie flow would have been interrupted by the use of the low-definition footage. The end-result is an impressive voyage into the past, both from the history point-of-view as well as from the photography pov, as viewers are not able to identify what is footage and what is recreation thus allows them to flawlessly immerse into the story that is told.
Is truly a fascinating movie especially for those familiar with the real-events protagonists as some of them are in film and thanks to makeup look younger, amazing. Then is good to know that film characters are composites of real-life people which obviously enriches the characters and allows actors to quite magnificently give layered performances. I am not a Gael García Bernal fan but recognize that besides Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También this is the best performance I have seen, so good that he steals the movie to make it his own, not even Larraín's regular great Alfredo Castro (missed his absolutely fantastic deadpan performances) is able to be at García Bernal's level; but all real-life people as well as actors give fantastic supporting performances.
On the surface film tells about the unique story of how a dictator was overthrown without shredding a drop of blood, how an advertising campaign motivated voters to vote and more specifically related to the movie, how the ad campaign was created against the will of many, including the "client" which in this case meant a coalition of about 17 political parties. But this will not be a Larraín movie if only that story is told as with perhaps the most mischievous ways he is able to show us a dichotomy in every action with the opposite reaction plus skipping his usual two-acts film gives us a clear end that just opens us into reflection about what has happened in Chile during the following 24 years and diving us into wondering what was won as -among many other things- Pinochet "died a free man" as stated by the director's own words.
But let me be clear that even if you are not familiar with Chile's history film is highly worth-watching as brilliantly plays with dark and not so-dark humor plus drama in very entertaining ways and the low-definition probably will "hurt" your eyes for a while, but soon you will get accustomed just as many did when was the "norm" for TV viewers a long time ago.
As we know film was premiered at the 2012 Cannes in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section where won the Arte Cinema Prize, has been Official Selection in the most prestigious North-American festivals like Telluride and Toronto, collected many honors while travelling the fest circuit, is Chile's submission to 2013 Oscar and would not be surprised if film makes it to the shortlist of nine and if gets a nomination as truly deserves the recognition.
By the length of post you can tell that I was highly impressed by film and the story behind the film, so it is no surprise that I highly recommend you watch it no matter if you are or you are not familiar with story that tells as know you will enjoy it, even if you have not enjoyed that much Larraín's previous films.
Watch trailer @MOC
If you wish to have a brief background before or after watching movie, check the following chart done by one of the producing companies. Just click image to enlarge.
If you wish to go more in-depth about Chile's history suggest to watch the BBC documentary called "The Other 9/11" that is here.