Film of the week: “Post Mortem”

17/12/2010 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s last film, Tony Manero, followed an obsessive Saturday Night Fever fan/John Travolta impersonator, whose absurd passion for disco dancing turned to extreme violence and even murder – all against a backdrop of Pinochet’s repressive and equally murderous regime. It was disturbing, dark and satirical masterpiece of modern Latin American cinema. Its star, Alfredo Castro, was intense and quietly dangerous – seemingly born to play the sociopathic lead role.
Now, two years later, both the director and star have reunited for Post Mortem.
If Sofia Coppola is going to be accused of re-making the same film, with many likening her latest film, Somewhere, to Lost in Translation, then Larrain can also expect to receive similar criticism. Post Mortem follows another sociopathic protagonist (again played by the deliciously charmless Casto) and is likewise set in 1970s Chile – this time during the military coup itself. But it is ok for a film-maker to continually re-explore the same themes so long as they do it well: just look at anyone from Michael Mann to Kurosawa to Steven Spielberg. In many ways it is what defines an auteur, as opposed to a jobbing director. And Larrain does this subject and this character better than anyone.
Dirty, dark and seedy seem like appropriate adjectives to describe Larrain’s aesthetic. Latin America has seldom looked less fun-loving and sun-soaked than in his films, which look at disconnected and deluded loners with long, static shots the norm. Here things take an even more tragic and poignant dimension, as Larrain depicts a morgue during the first days of the coup: brimming with the corpses of ordinary people, young and old. Tony Manero had social events in the background and absolutism as one of its central themes, but Post Mortem really brings this to the fore. Perhaps it is a little less subtle, but remains equally jarring and powerful.
Here Castro plays a morgue worker, Mario, who develops an obsessive (again with volatile absolutism) attraction for a neighbour, Nancy (Antonia Zegers). His misguided and unrealistic advances dominate the narrative chain of events, but really central is the way in which is nature runs parallel with Pinochet’s coup – although Mario himself is oblivious to (or at least uninterested in) the coup, like everything else bar his single-minded obsession.
Tony Manero was no less dark than Post Mortem, but it had a wicked sense of humour mostly absent here. But it’s no matter. The film makes up for it with more earnest feeling and genuine emotion, and is riveting and thought-provoking cinema. It is great to see this country’s turbulent recent past is finding its way into cinema through this wonderful directing talent.

Source: Obsessed with Film

Entry filed under: CHILEAN CINEMA, FILM OF THE WEEK, LATIN AMERICAN FILM. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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