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Pablo Larraín (#110 of 7)

Los Cabos International Film Festival Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

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Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Los Cabos International Film Festival: Jackie, Voyage of Time, Hasta la Raiz, & The Red Turtle

When I left my apartment in Brooklyn for John F. Kennedy International Airport, late at night on November 8th, neither Hilary Rodham Clinton nor Donald J. Trump had yet secured the 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected the 45th president of the United States. By the time I got through security checks and made it to my gate—where TV screens were broadcasting returns from key battleground states—the race was called. Of course, I needn’t hear the result: I saw it on the faces of the people waiting to board, a mix of utter shock and overwhelming concern that the future of our republic would be determined by the most inexperienced, unqualified, and roundly disreputable person to ever hold the highest office.

Toronto Film Review Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

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Toronto Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s Jackie

In Jackie, it doesn’t take long for Pablo Larraín to pull his first subversion of the biopic genre. Those familiar with Natalie Portman’s previous work as an actress will be startled to hear her vocal approximation of Jackie Kennedy’s distinctive speech patterns in the film’s opening moments. But when Jackie makes it clear to a visiting journalist (Billy Crudup, playing a version Theodore H. White, who profiled her in Life magazine a week after John F. Kennedy’s assassination) that she’ll be controlling this interview as much as possible, one quickly realizes that Larraín wants us to be aware of Portman’s performance as an act. The spectacle of a famous actress like Portman taking on one of the most iconic figures in American history becomes, under Larraín’s direction, just another level of performance, in a film concerned with elucidating levels of performance in public and private spheres.

AFI Fest 2015 The Club and Blood of My Blood

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AFI Fest 2015: The Club and Blood of My Blood

Music Box Films

AFI Fest 2015: The Club and Blood of My Blood

With Dolores del Río serving as the face of the 2015 AFI Film Fest, it’s fitting that this year’s lineup strikes an almost equal balance between American and international films, both independent and big-budget, with a healthy dose of Latin American filmmakers in the mix. Del Río was Hollywood’s first Latina crossover star, appearing in American films at the end of the silent era and in early talkies before becoming the leading actress of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Her 1933 RKO musical Flying Down to Rio, famous for being the first on-screen pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, headlines the festival’s Cinema’s Legacy section.

This spirit of fusion between American and international cinema is on display in many of the festival’s films, like The 33, a Chilean-American production that dramatizes Chile’s 2010 Copiapó mining accident. Directed by Patricia Riggen, like del Río a Mexican woman working in Hollywood, the film’s cast is a mix of American, Latin American, and international actors. Though The 33 opened to great fanfare as one of the festival’s five gala films, it’s another Chilean work, The Club, that will be generating buzz as Oscar season approaches.

Berlinale 2015 The Club

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Berlinale 2015: The Club
Berlinale 2015: The Club

If Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s latest feature, The Club, is any indication, the relatively straightforward nature of his last film, No, was only temporary. The gleeful perversity of his previous two features, 2008’s Tony Manero and 2010’s Post Mortem, is back in his new film, and so is a welcome maturity to his misanthropy that lends an unexpected moral weight to the coal-black comedy.

New York Film Festival 2012: No

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>No</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>No</em>

Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero and Post Mortem) gives us another take on his country’s dark dance with military dictatorship in No, an often lighthearted, sometimes inspirational, but ultimately unsettling feature. The film covers an extraordinary time in 1988 during which the Pinochet regime was shamed by international pressure into holding an election to produce a show of legitimacy. For 27 days leading up to the election, the state-controlled TV station aired 15 minutes a day of free programming for the government and 15 minutes against it. After 15 years of silencing the opposition with torture, death, or sheer terror, the junta was confident that their supporters, the Yes party, would turn out in allegiance, and that their opposition, the No party, would stay home, fearful of retaliation or (rightly) convinced that the vote would be fixed. But they didn’t account for the brave and canny image-shapers, straight out of the advertising world, who would steal the election back from the junta.

New York Film Festival 2010: Black Venus and Post Mortem

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New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Black Venus</em> and <em>Post Mortem</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Black Venus</em> and <em>Post Mortem</em>

If there is a thread running through some of this year’s New York Film Festival selections, it is the acceptance of the enigmatic in human beings. Andrei Ujicâ’s documentary The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu, for instance, used extensive footage of the notorious Romanian leader not to probe into the man’s inner life, but to subversively present an extended version of his brand of public pageantry over the course of his decades of political prominence. In exploring the international terrorist who took the title’s nom de guerre, Olivier Assayas, in Carlos, focused more on the vast disconnect between the man himself and the rock-star image he cultivated than in necessarily painting a detailed psychological portrait. And on the fiction front, Cristi Puiu, in Aurora, fastidiously observed his main character’s increasingly irrational behavior in a perhaps deliberately failed attempt to get inside the head of a seemingly normal individual who commits four acts of homicide. In each of these films, there is a marked absence of psychological or emotional connection, the implication being that human beings are so complex and multifaceted that the more honest approach to these characters/real-life figures would be to simply recreate a milieu as immaculately as possible, invite the audience to look on and draw its own conclusions.

New York Film Festival 2008: The Headless Woman and Tony Manero

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New York Film Festival 2008: <em>The Headless Woman</em> and <em>Tony Manero</em>
New York Film Festival 2008: <em>The Headless Woman</em> and <em>Tony Manero</em>

Thursday was NYFF’s day of South American cinema. The morning brought Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman, the afternoon Pablo Larraín’s Tony Manero. Both are staggering in different ways. Let’s start with the harder one. I’ve never been a fan of Martel—arguably the most prominent Argentinian director this side of the millennium (exactly the kind of description that can drive people crazy, but whatever). Martel is obviously a sophisticated filmmaker, but she alienated me greatly in La Cienaga and The Holy Girl with her shaky-cam—not to be confused with the Michael Mann school of trying to catch gorgeous momentary accidents or the Assayas school of nervous energy, but far more thematically related. Cienaga’s camera is part of the humid irritability, The Holy Girl’s connected with the film’s general interest in touching and not touching bodies, things always being just this close but impossible to connect with. Martel’s cinema is fundamentally one of misdirection and missed connections; all of these things make sense, but they set my teeth on edge. This kind of camera is why it took me a good three or four movies to come around on Olivier Assayas. I’m an idiot.