Admittingly, when it comes to Chilean history, I know little. That’s okay, because when it comes to recognizing a well executed procedural on film, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I know quite a bit. In other words, I’m able to recognize productions with class from those of trash, and of course it should go without saying that my projected subjectivity on this medium of art known as cinema is always right. Always! Okay, now that my little ego tripping of a rant is out of the way, on with the review.
The film opens with a Chilean Cliff Notes recap of the countries past 25 years leading up to the present day setting of 1988. So, history buff or not, and even before a single whisker of Gael García Bernal‘s luscious beard appears on screen (seriously, that thing is awesome), anyone going to see this movie will immediately be brought up to speed with the climate of what’s going on.
Essentially, this is a biopic on the people behind the 27 nights of a daily 15 minute televised campaign for an upcoming referendum election where Chileans would vote as to whether they wanted to continue to be ruled by the Dictator Augusto Pinochet, or if they should hold open elections the following year. Those who wanted to continue to be ruled by Pinochet would vote Yes while those who opposed his rule would vote No. Given the title of this film one could safely guess as to which side of the voting campaign we’re following.
Not being the biggest fan of biopics to begin with, I approached this film with the natural skepticism I would any other. How many scenes will be added or left out from what really transpired? Who will actually be based on a real person, and who will be added or taken completely out of the story? How much of the filmmakers’ dramatic heightening of events will be taking place? But most importantly, will I fully enjoy this? By the end of this movie none of these questions, including the last one, could be answered with any certainty.
Perhaps it’s because I knew little to nothing of the events and people involved in this story prior to entering the theatre, or maybe I was swept up in the, dare I say, “gimmicky” or perhaps “ingenious” way in which it was shot (more on that shortly), but when all was said and done, I must admit that this biopic resonated with me more so than most.
As for the “gimmicky/ingenious” way in which this was shot. The movie is made to look like it was shot in the time period of which it takes place, the late 80s. That means that it was filmed on video support u-matic 3:4, which, for all you non-techies reading this, means it was shot with equipment most likely resembling this and this to give the appearance of what you can see in the trailer below.
At first, I was reluctant to embrace this approach, especially since someone whose opinion I admiringly respect was telling me of her issues with the film. Her issues: 1. The actual movement and editing of the shots were too modern and didn’t at all fall in line with late 80s filmmaking and that 2. The film’s lead, Gael García Bernal was way too famous for her to become truly immersed in the story.
In response to her gripes I would say that 30 years from now someone can watch this film and say it’s a movie that takes place in the late 80s that feels like it was shot in the late 80s, whereas that same person will watch something like Argo 30 years from now and say it’s a movie that takes place in the early 80s that feels like it was shot in 2012. It’s that reason alone that I was able to overlook this minor flaw in filming technique.
As for the recognizable factor of actor Gael García Bernal, well I guess sometimes you’re able to suspend disbelief and sometimes you’re not.
Although I don’t know what lies ahead for director Pablo Larraín may I suggest a behind the scenes biopic on Charlie Chaplin filmed on the actual equipment used in the early 20th Century? Now, in risk of contradicting myself, if that were to ever happen, and Larraín were to use 21st Century camera movements, then yes, I would take issue with the film. But in this case, due to reasons beyond my comprehension, I am able overlook and enjoy.