Federico Veiroj’s thoughtful and delicate second feature contemplates the value of outmoded occupations with this evocative (and alarming!) depiction of life at the end of a cinematheque. It marks a departure from his celebrated debut Acne, but for anyone who loves cinema in its purest form, this film will be a revelation.
Jorge is crushed when the closure of the cinema cathedral where he works becomes imminent. Dwindling attendance numbers, lack of budget and an eviction notice all become insurmountable when the foundation that has financed the theatre for years withdraws its support. Their new policy is to fund only those cultural activities that turn a profit. But Jorge has spent twenty-five years working at the cinematheque and knows little else. Veiroj details the daily and varied film house activities wonderfully – selecting, projecting and introducing films, programming retrospectives and cultivating an audience. Giving the film even greater authenticity, the enigmatic Cinemateca Uruguaya director Manuel Martínez Carrilo plays himself.
The story veers in a new direction once the cinema has closed and, for the first time, we see Jorge travelling through Montevideo. Although he is overwhelmed by the prospect of having no profession or purpose, Jorge decides to take charge and become the protagonist of his own film. Once again, cinema provides meaning for this true believer in the moving image as he searches for a love interest, determined to take her to the movies.
Shot in luscious black and white, A Useful Life illustrates the difficulties of maintaining cultural institutions in developing countries. Although the story that Veiroj tells is fiction, it is true that the Cinemateca Uruguaya is beleaguered by financial woes. The film is also at heart a love story, dedicated both to Jorge and to cinema. Veiroj uses music that evokes the silent era to breathe life into Jorge’s adventure outside of the film house. It adds to the air of nostalgia that permeates the film. —TIFF
Federico Veiroj was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1976. He received a degree in SocialCommunication from the Catholic University of Uruguay and began making short films in 1996.
His first feature film, Acne, won the Films in Progress TVE Award at the 2007 San Sebastián International Film Festival, premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 AFI Festival in Los Angeles. A Useful Life is his second feature film. –Global Lens
Otra película uruguaya contemporánea, minimalista en su forma y naturalista en el registro actoral. Con una marcada influencia del cine de Ermanno Olmi, asistimos a la modesta historia del empleado de una cinemateca en crisis que se ve obligado a encarar la vida de una forma distinta ante la inminente desaparición de su "mundo". El uso de los espacios tiene una carga dramática y narrativa sustancial. Interesante.
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Uruguayan filmmaker Federico Veiroj was born in Montevideo in 1976. In 2000 he obtained a Degree in Social Communication at the Catholic University