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.
Post Mortem (#1–10 of 3)
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.
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.