Monday, April 28, 2014

No (2012 film)

Based on the unpublished play El Plebiscito by Antonio Skarmeta, No is the story about an advertising man in late 1980s Chile who is asked to create a campaign to vote against Augusto Pinochet in the 1988 national plebiscite. Directed by Pablo Larrain and screenplay by Pedro Peirano, the film is a look into a man who would help end Pinochet’s dictatorship as it’s the third film of Larrain’s trilogy about Pinochet. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Nestor Cantillana. No is a captivating film from Pablo Larrain.

The film is a simple story about the NO campaign in the 1988 national plebiscite where the people of Chile had to vote whether to keep Augusto Pinochet for eight more years as this vote is being seen all over the world as Pinochet would be forced to see what the people will vote for. Leading this NO campaign is a young advertising executive who is asked by a Socialist friend of his to create ideas for the campaign while his boss would eventually take charge of the YES campaign. It’s a film that explores one young man’s attempt to create something that is for the sake of his country as well as the future of his young son in the hopes that he wouldn’t have to see his son endure the pain and terror of Pinochet’s dictatorship.

Pedro Peirano’s screenplay plays into the life of Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) who starts out as a man who creates commercials for an advertising company as it’s a life he’s content with despite the fact that he and his wife Veronica (Antonia Zegers) are separated. When being approached by his Socialist friend Jose Tomas Urrutia (Luis Gnecco) to take part in the NO campaign, Rene says no at first as he didn’t want to interfere with his job or jeopardize his friendship with his boss Lucho (Alfredo Castro). Yet, he couldn’t turn down the idea of overthrowing Pinochet and bring a bright future to Chile for his son. Much of the script explores the ideas for a campaign where Saavedra realizes that if they have to get votes from young and old voters, they would have to do something different and radical.

While the script plays into a lot of the history of Pinochet’s reign, it also takes it time to explore what Saavedra and the people he’s working are struggling with as they knew that showing images of what Pinochet has done wouldn’t work. By going for something that was hopeful, it would create some tension not just among some of the people in the NO campaign but also cause trouble with the people running the YES campaign as they’re unsure of what to do to counter the NO campaign. Lucho tries to offer Saavedra a very prestigious offer after the election only to be turned down as Lucho does whatever to keep the YES campaign going only to realize that everything he’s doing for his bosses aren’t working.

Pablo Larrain’s direction is very mesmerizing not just for the intimacy he created but in the visual look of the film that is really striking. Shot in a full-frame aspect ratio and on video-like film format known as U-matic to play into that period, it’s a film that is about a moment in time where Chile was at a critical point in time where they’re not sure if Pinochet would still rule as the whole world is watching. The look and its intimacy has this nostalgic feel while the video footage of the campaigns definitely look like what Latin American television looked like at that time. Much of the NO campaign commercials do have a sense of cheesiness yet it does have a point in not just the future of Chile but also what might happen. Some of it is very funny and light-hearted while some of it is also sobering as opposed to the more propaganda-based approach of the YES campaign.

There’s also some moments of suspense in the direction in the way it portrays some of the chaos that goes on in Chile as it’s shot on location in the country and the city of Santiago. Even as Larrain was able to recreate some of the protests and marches that went on during the 27-day campaign period as well as incorporate archival footage of these events that include testimonials from Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, and the late Christopher Reeve. While its outcome would be known, it’s more about what Saavedra would feel about in his role as well as the impact it have. The film’s final credits would reveal footage of the people who were part of this campaign as they meet the actors who would play them. Overall, Larrain crafts a very stylish yet riveting film about the NO campaign that would end Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile.

Cinematographer Sergio Armstrong does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography with its grainy yet rich look in its video-like form as it plays to something that has an air of nostalgia but also some style that features additional work from visual effects supervisor/colorist Ismael Cabrera to play with the look of the film as well as the TV footage. Editor Andrea Chignoli does excellent work with the editing from the stylized approach of the adds as well as montages for some of the historical footage and jump-cuts for some of the film‘s drama. Art director Estefania Larrain and set decorator Maria Eugenia Hederra do fantastic work with the set pieces from the offices that Saavedra works at as well as his house and the studio where he looks into the filming of the ads.

Costume designer Francisca Roman does nice work with the costumes as it plays to the look of the late 80s for most of the characters while many of the government officials wear suits and uniforms. Sound designer Miguel Hormazabal does superb work with the sound from the way TV sounded back then to the sounds of crowds gathering for marches and such. The film’s music by Carlos Cabezas is terrific as it doesn’t appear much in the film as it’s mostly an orchestral-based score that is very low-key as it plays to some of the drama that occurs.

The film’s wonderful cast includes some notable small roles from Jaime Vadell as a government minister, Marcial Tagle as Saavedra’s friend Alberto who aids him in the campaign, Elsa Poblete as Saavedra’s maid Carmen, and Pascal Montero as Saavedra’s young son Simon who watches everything that happens. Nestor Cantillana is excellent as the video director Fernando who often spars with Saavedra on a creative and political level as they reluctantly work together while Antonia Zegers is fantastic as Saavedra’s estranged wife Veronica whose work in protests and such has her returning to the life of her son as she contemplates about returning to Saavedra for a less complicated life. Luis Gnecco is brilliant as Saavedra’s Socialist friend Urrutia who brings him to the NO campaign while hoping that the campaign will do some good.

Alfredo Castro is amazing as Saavedra’s conservative boss Lucho who runs the YES campaign as he deals with Saavedra’s newfound affiliation while still being a friend as he also deals with the limited resources he had to use for the YES campaign. Finally, there’s Gael Garcia Bernal in a remarkable performance as Rene Saavedra as a young advertising executive who runs the NO campaign as he deals with the possibilities of the campaign as well as its unorthodox approach as it’s a performance that has Bernal be somewhat restrained but also show a determination as a man who would play a small part in changing Chile’s political identity.

No is an incredible film from Pablo Larrain that features a marvelous performance from Gael Garcia Bernal. The film doesn’t just offer something for history buffs about the end of Augusto Pinochet’s reign but it’s also a unique portrait of a period in time where thing was about to change told with such style. In the end, No is a phenomenal film from Pablo Larrain.

Pablo Larrain Films: (Fuga) - (Tony Manero) - (Post Mortem) - (The Club (2015 film)) - (Neruda) - Jackie (2016 film)

© thevoid99 2014

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