Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tony Manero (2008)

Synopsis: Pinochet era, Chilean disco dancing serial killing impotent nutbag goes up in a Tony Manero looky likey TV competition.

I was very intrigued by the premise of this film (serial killer obsessed with Saturday Night Fever, what's not to like??) and even though the first act was kind of slow-ish, the second and third act more than make up for it with some bloody brilliant touches.

We are introduced to Raul and his odd living/family arrangements. There is a mother, a girlfriend and her daughter and then her boyfriend ?! all living above some sort of cafe/restaurant/social club in Pinochet's Chile. The political situation is ever present (mentions of curfew, charges of Communism etc., tanks on the streets).

Raul and his odd bod dance troupe rehearse dance routines around his own version of Travolta's central dance in Saturday Night Fever. Watching Raul et al practice those well known dance steps is properly tragic, as they are about as good as you or I dancing in front of the mirror in our bedroom.

In between rehearsals, we get a glimpse into Raul's psychopathic activities. And they are properly psychopathic. He kills an old lady for her colour telly, a wood/glass merchant to get hold of his glass bricks (to build the coloured lit dance floor of course!), the cinema owners to get hold of the Saturday Night Fever film reels. Although the most disturbing episode is late on in the film, when it's revealed that the daughter's boyfriend will also be trying out for the Tony Manero competition. Raul finds out that the boyfriend has a better white suit than he has, so he ruins in the worst way he knows how. By defecating all over it.

By the end of film, we're witness to his performance at the looky likey show. He actually turns out to be the best impersonator with the best moves but...BUT he's not young and attractive enough to be allowed to win and even though audience applause tells us that he's won, the presenter gives the prize to another contestant. We follow Raul to the bus stop as he watches and follows the winner and his wife on to a bus. The film ends as they ride the bus, leaving us to assume that Raul will kill the guy at some point just out of spite.

Raul as an anti hero is pretty awful. We don't get any sense of him being human at all, with very little given away in his facial expressions or dialogue. At times the film reminded me of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Killing of a Chinese Bookie, with beautiful '70s colour tones and handheld camera work. (The dance sequences also took me back to one of my favourite dance scenes of all time, in the closing credits of Claire Denis' Beau Travail as Denis Lavant lets himself go in a Djibouti nightclub). Some of the out of focus shots didn't quite work for me, not sure what they were really for, but some of the group scenes used the handheld shooting really well. The camera moves about from character to character, focusing our attention first on Raul's slow dance with his girlfriend's daughter, then shifts to his girlfriend staring at them both, then follows them as they move upstairs and Raul fails miserably at seducing the girl.

Raul is almost like a child. He reacts remarkably simply to events around him, mostly through anger. At one point as the rotting floorboards on the cafe stage start to disintegrate beneath his dancing feet, he just starts to smash them up in a fit of rage, like a 5-year old child. Basically, he will kill to get his own way and has an unbelievable ability to delude himself.

The director has said that this film was a way of discussing the effect of living under a dictatorship; that in violent times people begin to behave with no morality and bascially only act for themselves. Pretty brilliant film.

More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1223975/

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