Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Disco Infernal

This is a film that has been and gone most places but I'll give it a mention because I wasn't on blog duty when it came out a few months back. Tony Manero is the tale of Raúl, a 52-year-old ne'er-do-well obsessed with Saturday Night Fever in the dark days of the military dictatorship in Chile in the late 70s. His dream is to appear in a TV talent contest as a John Travolta clone. So far, so-Full Monty. But Tony Manero is a far more scabrous, unobliging work, an ill-mannered riposte to the idea that popular culture (especially American pop culture) can provide redemption in the face of political repression. In this film, pop music is, at best a malign distraction from the evil within, at worst a vector for the rotten state of a country whose ruling élite has placed its consumer concerns above human ones. It reminds me of the lines parrotted by Pinochet supporters as the old bastard was held under house arrest in London ten years ago: "Before the General came to power, you couldn't even get blue jeans in Chile. He saved our country."

Apparently at its Cannes screening 18 months ago, several Hollywood studio executives left violently angry, incredulous anyone could envisage their product used for dark ends. Job well done, Pablo Larraín, whose second film this is. One of the films of 2009 so far.

Apologies for the lack of subtitles in the clip: