Reel Life mini-review: "No"
Pablo Larrain's astute, insightful political drama "No" details Chile's 1988 revolution to topple military dictator Augusto Pinochet, only this revolution didn't use guns, but the media as its primary weapon of choice.
More accurately, "No" attests to the power of the media to win hearts, sway minds and change the will of the Chilean people to usher in their first democratically elected government in 17 years. Unless the other side has a stronger message that persuades the nation to retain an image-reinvented Pinochet.
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Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Rene, the Chilean version of "Mad Men" protagonist Don Draper. He goes to work after international pressure pushes Pinochet to stage national elections for the president. Citizens will vote YES to retain Pinochet for eight more years. Citizens will vote NO to end his reign.
Campaigns form on both sides like two armies gearing up for a great war. "No" is surprisingly suspenseful as the two sides ratchet up political machinations laced with expected amounts of scary paranoia as both sides become slightly desperate and edgy.
Cinematographer Sergio Armstrong constructs the riskiest element in "No," the flat, 1980s TV quality footage (in old Academy aspect ratio to boot) that gives this feature a dreary documentarylike disregard for handsome images and perfect, balanced compositions.
It works beautifully for such a not-beautiful-looking motion picture.
"No" is a strong piece of filmmaking (nominated for the best foreign language film Oscar) and a fascinating, reality-invested exploration into the world of using images and music to set a society's political agenda and manipulate voters.
Never say no to "No."
"No" opens at the Century Centre in Chicago and the Evanston CineArts 6. Rated R for language. 110 minutes. ★ ★ ★ ★
Reel Life film notes:
• Join me and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club presents "Out of the Closet: How Hollywood Views Gays and Lesbians," 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave., Arlington Heights. Clips from "The Celluloid Closet," "The Children's Hour," "Boys in the Band," "Diamonds Are Forever," "Cruising" and 11 more movies. ahml.info or (847) 392-0100. Free admission.
• Winners in the annual Classic Cinemas "Predict the Oscars" contest are enjoying the fruits of their prognosticative labors. Elmhurst resident Kevin McCarty, Elk Grove Village resident Cheryl Hagen, Aurora resident Barb Morrison and St. Charles resident Don Brandt each received a one-year movie pass and a pair of tickets to the Brookfield Zoo. Congratulations!
• Want to meet a real-life Munchkin? Come and see actor Jordan Rafael (he plays a Munchkin in Walt Disney's new movie "Oz the Great and Powerful") from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Charlestowne 18 Theatre, 3740 E. Main St., St. Charles. Go to classiccinemas.com for details.
• Mount Prospect filmmaker Satya Kharkar's new Chicago-shot movie "Coin Toss" will have its London premiere -- yes, London premiere -- Saturday, March 9. Kharkar's screwball comedy concerns a nice guy who wins a $350 million lottery prize, then gets beset upon by a hustler and his scheming fiancee. Throw in a childhood sweetheart and a couple of homicidal pensioners and that's pretty much "Coin Toss."
The movie features cast members from the Northwest suburbs: Curt Renz and Maggie Malone of Arlington Heights, Joe Mastrino of Elmhurst, Shalaka Kulkarni of Schaumburg, Angela Kalamaras of Crystal Lake, and from Mount Prospect are Sejal Kharkar, Kalpana Neklikar, Ashley Zych, Diajna Nikic and Angela Niki.
Next up for the India-born filmmaker will be "Chicago Wedding," chronicling the ups and downs of an Indian/American marriage. "English is not my first language," Kharkar told an online news outlet, "but the language of cinema is universal!"
• The fifth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival runs through Sunday, March 10, at the Chicago Cultural Center. Screenings are free. Go to peaceonearthfilmfestival.org.
• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!