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Thursday, November 7, 2013

NO (2012)

Pablo Larrian’s all but irresistible film, from Antonio Skármeta’s play, tells the unlikely, fact-inspired story of how a young advertising executive (an indispensable Gael García Bernal) crafted slogans & an upbeat commercial campaign to win the 1988 plebiscite, ending the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. With its light, populist touch & forward-thinking message (‘Happiness Is Coming!), the campaign’s biggest obstacle may have been the clueless coalition of Leftist political parties who brought Bernal in as consultant. Fortunately for Chile, the Right was even more humorless and out of touch with the fast-changing South American Zeitgeist. More a great subject than a great film, Larrain tries to liven up a story we’re two-steps ahead of by using a period-based Cinema Verité visual style with a near Academy Ratio frame, lots of ‘hot’ light camera diffusion and haloed color registration artifacts. It helps him incorporate archival footage (make that ‘archival video’), but too often the events play out on the surface, artful applique that avoids as much as it reveals. Even the threats by thuggish authority figures & corrupt police, accurate though they undoubted are, don’t vibrate with the lasting effects they must have had at the time. And while enough comes thru to make for a satisfying story arc, it leaves the relationship between Bernal’s left-leaning creative idealist and Alfredo Castro as his right-leaning realist boss as the only fully fleshed out relationship in the film.

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