Friday, March 26, 2010
Tony Manero (2008)
Tony Manero is a Chilean film directed by Pablo Larraín, and it's about a guy who's obsessed with John Travolta's character in "Saturday Night Fever". It's one odd film. But brilliant at the same time.
Alfredo Castro plays Raúl, a guy that has a one track mind. To the escape the brutal realities of Pinochet's Chile in 1978, he tries to become his idol, Tony Manero. At the start we see him waiting outside of a local television set. He's there to become Chile's next "Tony Manero" in a dance off competition, the top prize is a blender. But he's got it wrong, this week is the best Chuck Norris lookalike competition, the Tony Manero Dance Off is next week. Now this guy is a walking zombie. There's no emotion from him. He doesn't get angry, but is just like "OK" and walks off. You never know what he's really thinking, or if he's even thinking at all. There's no emotion whatsoever.
So he's got a week to kill before his television appearance. He's got no job. And I assume that he just sponges off of people to get by. He is one seriously dislikable character. Sitting in his apartment, he hears commotion outside. A couple of thugs have robbed an old lady. Raúl runs downstairs to help, or so we think anyway. She's so grateful to him that she invites him for tea. After a while, having eyed the colour television set, he bashes the old lady's brains in. Seriously this comes straight out of left field. I never saw it coming. It is seriously disturbing.
What Raúl does for a living is dance. He's in charge of a low rent dance troop that practices Tony Manero's dance routine. Two of the dancers show him a couple of original moves that they have come up with to add to the show but Raúl replies "That's not in the movie!". He's got a serious case of assholeness. So they practice and practice and now they get their chance to perform for like 8 or 9 people lookin for cheap entertainment. Raúl has constructed a glass dance floor that glows from beneath just like in "Saturday Night Fever"(well not exactly alike but that's what he thinks) as well as his own disco ball(a soccer ball with broken bits of mirror stuck to it). You just have to applaud the guy for his effort.
But there's that really, really dark side to Raúl. He'll do anything to improve his standing in the world, including murdering an old lady as I've already said. When his local cinema starts showing "Grease" instead of "Saturday Night Fever" he flips his carrot and murders the projectionist. When he's buying the glass for his dance floor, he murders the seller because he hasn't enough money. And there is absolutely no emotional reaction at all when he does these things.
There's also a really great parallel drawn by the film. Raúl represents Chile in a way, and the search for it's identity. In the film notes the director talks about the way in which "Chile has blood on it's hands, but tries it's best to be trendy and stylish, dancing under flashing strobe lights all in the name of progress". Raúl never reflects on the things he has done. He's always on the lookout for the next best thing to improve his standing. He thinks that by pretending to be Tony Manero, that all his problems will disappear. But they're all hollow dreams. He lives in fantasy land, and never deals with reality.
Overall this is one seriously interesting film. There's very few things to laugh at, but I'd say after a while when you think back over it you'll be in stitches laughing. It's like experiencing a really horrible incident, but thinking back over it a month or two later it sounds hilarious. But very, very, very disturbing at the time.