Tuesday 12 March 2013

Tony Manero provokes strong reactions

On Sunday night I saw Tony Manero. There are ‘feel-good’ movies and . . . this is not one of them. It’s powerful, gritty and gripping but undeniably sleazy, dank and even clammy in its effect. I felt quite soiled by watching it even while being held with a kind of fascinated distaste. I have seen it described as a comedy, but there weren’t many laughs from me or the – admittedly sparse – audience at the Courtyard. The main character is played with a haggard intensity by Alfredo Castro, whose reptilian attempts to win a talent show impersonating John Travolta’s character in Saturday Night Fever are only marginally more repellent than the rest of a cast of characters drawn into the world of deceit, betrayal and violence that was Pinochet’s Chile. As a commentary on the tawdriness and corruption of a totalitarian regime, and the cheap dreams of a post-imperialist America which are shown as deeply implicated in the hollowing out of the culture and identity of the place, the film is strong stuff. As entertainment though, it wasn’t a great deal of fun!    

Richard Heatly

Anyone looking for an antidote to the 'cosy and predictable' sentimentality of Quartet (see RinkyDinks blog of 7 March) should have joined us on Sunday afternoon for Tony Manero.  Challenging and uncomfortable to put it mildly, this film led to much discussion in the bar afterwards.  Perhaps the '18' rating and the brochure description of 'a dissection of Chilean society under Pinochet' should have prepared us for the miserable monomania and the series of brutal, sociopathic acts which we glimpsed through our fingers as we covered our faces with our hands.  "Why is such a film necessary?" we asked ourselves as we nursed our hot chocolates afterwards and considered scaling up to gin to aid our recovery from the experience.  "What did it all mean?"  Maybe those of us who joined Amnesty in the 1970s and marched against fascism instead of watching Saturday Night Fever and saving our Saturday job wages to buy white suits or disco dresses have part of an answer.  I won't pretend to understand it all but as the experience haunts me I am glad that I saw this and I am reminded that films like this - and cultural fixtures like Borderlines to show them - are necessary.

Deb Summerfield

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