Made in Chile - on DVD

“Made in Chile” is a box set featuring two movies by Chilean director Pablo Larrain: “Post Mortem” (2010) and “Tony Manero” (2008). Both films are set in Santiago in the 1970s with one eye on the evolving and dangerous political climate and the other on the lives of a handful of citizens caught up in troubled relationships. Both star Alfredo Castro and his fellow actors from same troupe. This review focuses on “Tony Manero”, the disconcerting tale of an obsessive fan of “Saturday Night Fever” who murders his way into a look-alike competition on TV in the midst of Pinochet’s ruthless dictatorship.

It is 1979 and Raúl (Castro) is fixated with John Travolta’s role of Tony in the hit movie to the point where he watches it in an otherwise empty cinema over and over again, mouthing the words and echoing the moves from his seat. He registers for the impersonation competition a week in advance and in the meantime rehearses a small-time dance show also based on the film. Jobless, he murders the innocent and steals from them to fuel his passion.

Made In Chile - 2 Films in One DVD setRaúl shares a dwelling with his fellow performers, including Cony (Amparo Noguera) and her daughter Pauli (Paola Lattus), and young rival Goyo (Héctor Morales). Cony and he have a one-sided relationship where she gives and he very dispassionately takes. His all-consuming obsession with the character of Tony Manero is all he really cares about, but even then he carries a cold and unfeeling air, almost robotically mimicking Travolta’s moves without oozing any of the style and sexuality of the film character.

When Raúl’s murderous side comes out to play the film reaches its most blackly comic point. The dancer can flip from a seemingly compassionate boy scout to someone chillingly bludgeoning a trusting old lady to death in her own home, before helping himself to her valuables. Bizarrely, he also ensures her cat is fed before he leaves, suggesting he pinpoints victims rather than lashes out blindly.

The movie does not paint a very flattering picture of 1970s Chile. The people seem desperate for small sources of pleasure, the streets are dusty and run down, and everyone lives in fear of the untouchable police who beat up suspects and care more about political activists than they do about killers. Rebels try to engage in secret propaganda campaigns against Pinochet’s dictatorship but they do so at their peril.

This is certainly an unusual film in comparison with most typical Hollywood fodder, part catalogue of life under a ruthless regime, part serial killer thriller and part musical. The three sides of the triangle do manage to support each other and the end result is as accessible as it is refreshing.

Special Features included in the “Made in Chile” box set include:

  • Filmed interview with Alfredo Castro and film and theatre studies professor Maria Delgado (University of London)
  • Introductory booklet on Tony Manero from film critic Jonathan Romney
  • Introductory booklet on Post Mortem from film critic Demetrios Matheou
  • Behind Post Mortem featurette
  • Image Gallery
  • Post Mortem Trailer
  • Tony Manero Trailer

The post-UK premiere Q&A session with Castro about “Tony Manero” is blessed with an interviewer who can both translate when the Chilean actor’s English dries up and ask intelligent and insightful questions. That said, Castro’s command of the language is very impressive and he does not call on her services very often.

“Made in Chile: Two Films by Pablo Larrain" is out now on DVD, courtesy of Network Releasing. The box set has a total running time of 294 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £19.99. “Post Mortem” is also available on its own for £14.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.=

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