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Certificate - 18
Run Time - 97 minutes
Genre - Foreign Drama
Country - Chile
31 years after Saturday Night Fever we have 'Tony Manero', a black comedy from Chile that welds disco and political oppression with a serial killer having a mid-life crisis thrown in, not your normal multiplex thriller fare. I really enjoy oddities like this that pop up and jumped at the chance to rent when it crept into Blockbusters like a nuclear submarine under the icecap, shamed on the bottom shelf like all blue sticker foreign movies seem to be. If only people gave subtitled movies a chance. Some of the greatest movies never seen are no doubt foreign.
Alfredo Castro ... Raúl Peralta
Amparo Noguera ... Cony
Héctor Morales ... Goyo
Paola Lattus ... Pauli
Elsa Poblete ... Wilma
Nicolás Mosso ... Tomás
Enrique Maluenda ... TV host
It's the turbulence of 1970s South America as we meet loser Raúl Peralta (Alfredo Castro), spending his days in a seedy suburb of Santiago in Pinochet's Chile, dreaming of being a John Travolta impersonator, his fascination for the Tony Manero character in Saturday night Fever reaching dangerously obsessive levels. tothe top, by appearing on a TV talent contest - and winning, of course
His lover Cony (Amparo Noguera) dotes on him, as does her nubile young daughter Maria (Lamia Hernandez) .Wilma (Elsa Poblete), the elderly owner of the local ballroom they frequent, also has an uncountable urge to bed him. All of them want Raul, but Raul just wants to dance, spending his days practicing Travolta's moves on the studio floor and then sneaking into the local cinema to see the movie over and again, his only spoken English being the script of the movie as he tries to become his God.
To express his deluded talent he enters a look-alike contest at the local TV station, dressed as Tony Manero in the white suit but mixes the dates up with Chuck Norris week, not the brightest guy up top, the prize being a new food blender for this particular show a she queues with guys wearing mirrored sunglasses and false mustaches. He will have to come back next week.
In the interim he needs to perfect his moves and get the right threads, Goyo (Héctor Morales), also one of his fans from the dance studio, only too willing to help with that iconic white suit. But Raúl has a more disturbing side, a sociopathic killer one, from old ladies to night watchmen, anyone who has something he needs, however trivial, ending up dead. The residents of Santiago better hope that he wins the Tony Manero talent night on Channel 7 next Saturday...
The terrific performance by Alfredo Castro (Chile's Al Pacino) is the movie: a funny, scary and pathetic man. He is an odious, hollow and dead-eye character but you love the freedoms he has by not giving a f**k, terrifying and repellent as he is fascinating. He represents all those people who don't have a role to play in society and so not interested by playing by the rules of that society.
It's a cross between the brilliant Belgium movie 'Man bites Dog' meets 'The King of Comedy', De Niro's under rated cringe oddity. It's an Oscar winning performance too that never was because Hollywood only has one category for 79% of the world's movies.
It's atmospheric as it is bleak and yet plenty of black comedy amongst the casual murder and sex to earn a wry smile or to from. This guy doesn't care about anything and because his dream is something so trivial and un-profound the banality of that ambition makes his character so interesting and odd. For all the romanticizing of serial killers in the movies they are much more likely to be as grubby and uninteresting as Raúl Peralta than hammy and clever like Anthony Hopkins.
If you have a brain and can tolerate subtitles you will love this movie. It is so different. I like the central premise that amongst military dictatorship and the chaos it brings it allows the sociopaths space to come out and play, blending in so to speak, the old men that start the wars cut from the same cloth. The celebrity obsession explored in the movie is also interesting as the traits we pick up from TV and the movies are often subliminal and we certainly would never admit to them. Some people get delusional in life and it's often when we believe we can be like the people on the telly or in the movies. We are told can be someone without actually doing anything. When Kate Middleton wore a certain dress sales went up 500% in just two days. Why would you suddenly want to wear the same dress as Kate Middleton? It's just a film that has gone all out to do something different and leave the audience to decide hat they make of it, however naughty and perverse it is. One-day you will all want to be Raúl Peralta is the films core message as you tire of our celebrity culture.
The Guardian -"Perhaps best appreciated as a deadpan dark comedy about how ignorance, delusion, and selfishness can conspire to keep a people under the boot heels of a dictatorship"
Time Out - "[Director] Larrain deftly employs a Dardennes-style in-the-moment handheld lensing, managing a high-wire act in which audience disgust is outpaced by breathless anticipation".
The NY Post - " A reminder that the so-called escape offered by pop culture can sometimes be an escape into soul-sucking madness".
Sao Paulo observer -"Larrain's consciously raw execution in telling the story of a compelling but ultimately unsavory character is an id-bending exercise in provocation that's both competent and challenging".