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NYFF 2010. Pablo Larraín's "Post Mortem"

Nelson Kim for Hammer to Nail: "Pablo Larraín follows up his acclaimed Tony Manero with the same production team, the same lead actor (the brilliant Alfredo Castro), and the same overall mission: to depict the horrors of Chilean life under Pinochet's military dictatorship."

Nick Schager in Slant: "Mario (Castro) is a mortician in 1973 Chile who, on the day of Pinochet's military coup against socialist president Salvador Allende, finally decides to act on his long-suppressed feelings for across-the-street neighbor Nancy (Antonia Zegers), a cabaret dancer fired from her gig at the local theater for being anorexic. With long blond-white locks framing his chillingly gaunt, pasty face, Mario is a hollow specter roaming an urban milieu wracked by upheaval, and his blank, impassive eyes and mechanical comportment eerily reflect the murderous callousness of the country's power-seizing armed forces. Larraín's film opens with the undercarriage image of a tank loudly rolling down a street littered with the debris of absent protestors, and a similar brand of machinery noise assumes a persistent presence throughout the ensuing saga, with the sound of refrigerator humming or medical contraption buzzing suggesting the dangerous static that seems to plague Mario's unstable mind."

Tom Hall: "Post Mortem maintains the grainy, 16mm texture of Tony Manero and extends that film's exploration of the equation between masculine ego and political murder; both Tony and Mario wear their private dreams and fantasies as indifferent accessories to the terrifying upheaval that surrounds them, an extension of the permissive disregard for human life that engulfs the Chilean social order and seems to destroy the possibility for rational engagement. Which is not to say that the indescribable, deeply personal violence that takes place in both films is somehow legitimized by the collapse of democratic values, but more that the character's violence is nothing more than a pathetic echo of the same totalitarian impulse that ripped the nation apart.... If Tony Manero traded in a transactional world where murder and bartering bring the protagonist tantalizingly close to achieving his pathetically small ambitions, then Post Mortem exists at the intersection of personal, professional and political destruction on a grand dramatic scale that seems to be something straight out of a Kafkan nightmare."

The L's Mark Asch finds that, "though Larraín has some fun with his blunt, dopey dialogue, the gray, gnomic Castro's obsession is far less inspired than in the frequently absurdly hilarious Tony Manero — and the parody seems far less intentional."

 

 

"I found Post Mortem more grimly amusing, strangely affecting, and certainly unsettling than its overpraised predecessor," writes Kenji Fujishima at the House Next Door. "And its seemingly endless, unexpectedly devastating eight-minute concluding punchline is quite possibly some kind of classic."

Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York: "There are plenty of art-film trappings — an eerily quiet soundtrack, rigorous long takes, even a POV sex scene — but this is as laughably bad an evocation of history as Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor."

Screens this evening and tomorrow night. Earlier: Reviews from Venice.

Coverage of the coverage: NYFF 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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