Tony Manero

Dir: Pablo Larraín
Star: Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Paola Lattus, Héctor Morales

It's late seventies Chile, under the dictatorship of General Pinochet. But Raul (Castro) doesn't care about that: he is obsessed with Saturday Night Fever and its central character, Tony Manero. Raul is rehearsing for a show at a rundown dinner theatre and believes he is Manero in the flesh, even if he is thirty or more years olds. He has the suit (minor quibbles like the number of fly buttons aside), the moves (or so he thinks), and goddammit, he's going to have an illuminated floor just like the one in Fever. Raul is also an entirely amoral psychopath, who funds the glass blocks necessary for his creation, by crimes such as the murder of an old lady. That is, however, nothing compared to the fury unleashed after his local cinema stops showin Fever, replacing it with "another movie starring the same guy." Which would be Grease. Meanwhile, he also has to deal with the demands of his girlfriend (Noguera) and her daughter (Lattus), against the backdrop of a totalitarian crackdown featuring torture, abductions and visits by the secret police.

It makes for unremittingly downbeat viewing, with the only lighter notes provided by absurd moments, such as the opening, where Raul shows up to a TV lookalike contest - only to discover he's a week early, and this is the Chuck Norris episode. I like the idea of a psychopath with a flamboyant side [see the marvellous SexyKiller for an example], but this is just not as much fun as it should be, given the surreal central concept. Larrain seems more content to clobber us over the head with the ideas, as well as the socio-political subtext of which he seems overly fond. While Castro certainly brings a shabby charisma to proceedings, he is never more than dislikeable, an impotent letch who thinks nothing of taking a crap on the white suit of a rival, and the rest of the characters aren't much better. When the movie ends, abruptly, we were rather glad to be done with them, and 70's Chile too.

[April 2010]

Psychopath Night Fever
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