The big releases of the week are Tim Burton’s weird but not particularly organic Alice in Wonderland (reviewed on MSN here) and the bloodless (spiritually, not literally) remake of The Wolfman with Benicio De Toro (I reviewed the theatrical release for Parallax View here). The most interesting release of the week is Aleksandr Sokurov’s The Sun, which I review on blog here.
Also from Kino Lorber this week is Tony Manero (Lorber Films), which was Chile’s official submission to the 2009 Academy Awards. The title of this dark crime drama refers not to a real person but the character from Saturday Night Fever played by John Travolta. Raul (Alfredo Castro), a middle-aged petty thief, lowlife and sociopath in the drab outskirts of 1978 Santiago, watches the film repeatedly at a local dive. He obsessively memorizes the dialogue and mimics the moves in a graceless recreation of Travolta’s commanding dance performance. He even has a replica of the iconic white suit, which he prefers to carry around like a talisman rather than actually wear it, at least until he unleashes his act on a chintzy TV talent show (the movie opens outside the TV studio but our would-be Manero got the wrong date and doesn’t realize he’s lined up with the Chuck Norris impersonators).
Director/co-writer Pablo Larrain steers clear of overt political commentary but hints at the repression, the poverty and the underground resistance in the edges of the story. His commentary comes in his presentation of a miserable, impoverished world with a grimy style and murky palette, and the sociopathic thug at the center of it. Castro plays the part with a dead-eyed blankness, a hollow, terrifying a character who is as repellent as he is fascinating. Under his gray death-mask of a face, however, is a sexually impotent, impulsive, angry old man who fashions his identity after an American movie character and kills anyone who gets in the way of his fantasy. Disturbing, brutal, and with a streak of bleak dark humor, it’s a tough and often unpleasant film designed to discomfort viewers. The film features sexual acts, explicit nudity and brutal acts of violence. In Spanish with English subtitles.