Cinema Review: No

| February 6, 2013 | Comments (0)

 

DIR: Pablo Larraín • WRI: Pedro Peirano • PRO: Daniel Marc Dreifuss, Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín • DOP: Sergio Armstrong • ED: Andrea Chignoli •  CAST: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers
 

¡Viva la revolucion 4:3, amigos! After the dissemination of square televisions necessitated filmmakers to adapt aspect ratios of a wider persuasion, good old Academy Ratio is undergoing a minor artistic resurgence. The Artist re-appropriated it as part of its emulation of silent aesthetics, while Miguel Gomes similarly drew on its classical connotations for his nostalgic and intoxicating Tabu. Kelly Reichardt used it to differentiate her bleak, claustrophobic Meek’s Cutoff from any number of epically Cinemascope Westerns. And now we have No, whose director Pablo Larraín (Post Mortem, Tony Manero) uses 4:3 to make his film look like crap.At least it looks crap for a reason! The film is set in Chile in 1988, and tells the story of the television advertising campaign that was waged against dictator Pinochet’s referendum calling for a further extension to his already fifteen year long reign. Larrain uses the relatively primitive television technology of the time – a camera system called U-matic – with good cause. It does not make for the most beautifully cinematic feature film – there is constant ugly artefacting and the exposure basically freaks the hell out when it has to deal with direct sunlight. And yet it works, predominantly because archive footage is near seamlessly integrated with the ‘new’ footage. The film’s strikingly retro visualisation creates a memorable sense of place and time, and the eccentric format is pretty much completely justified. Not that every period film should suddenly start shooting in U-matic, of course.

 

The visuals may be non-traditional, but the story being told is a pretty straightforward one. Gael García Bernal plays René Saavedra, a composite of several real-life advertising creatives. After being persuaded to help craft the ‘No’ campaign, he decides to focus on a joyful, optimistic campaign to counter the Pinochet’s camp typically unconvincing propaganda. Initially the idea is met with resistance by the ‘Vote No’ camp, who think the campaign is downplaying the atrocities of the Pinochet regime. But it quickly becomes apparent the positivity is resonating, and it isn’t long before the dictator’s minions take a particular interest in the people behind the increasingly popular campaign.

 

It’s a fascinating history lesson about one of the few incidences where the language of advertising and selling was utilised to achieve a grander goal than the promotion of soft drinks. Bernal’s protagonist is an interesting one, dealing with the personal and social repercussions of his work. The story is told with the right blend of comedy and drama – examining an intriguing mini-revolution while not forgetting to have a bit of fun. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises in the way René’s story plays out, and the film could perhaps have probed the ethical and moral dilemmas of the situation in greater depth (the film does conclude on a satisfactorily bittersweet note). On the whole, though, No is never less than engaging and enjoyable. And those cheesy ‘No’ jingles really are strangely persuasive…

 

It’s actually somewhat of a shame the film’s  unusual presentation and subtitles will relegate this to small releases in arthouse theatres like the IFI. It’s an accessible and entertaining film that would undoubtedly appeal to those who enjoyed the likes of Argo. If you do happen to stumble across it, No is well worth a look as a distinctive way of telling a great story.

 

¡Viva!

 

Stephen McNeice

15A (see IFCO website for details)

117 mins

No is released on 8th February 2013

No– Official Website

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Category: Cinema Reviews, Reviews

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