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April 8, 2013 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Film Review – No

Directed by Pablo Larrain

Given enough time, most events will offer themselves as perfect analogies for contemporary reflection. Filmmakers are as acutely aware as historians of the resources of the past, but the wisdom in claiming them is not without conditions.

Director Oliver Stone spectacularly misjudged the worth of revisiting 9/11 after only five years. His vacuous blockbuster World Trade Center
proved that in the quest for profundity, timing is important. Not that the waiting game necessarily requires the dust to settle, as Kathryn Bigelow has twice proved now; the Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty both offered new texture to current events in a fashion closer to a public service than entertainment alone.

And so it is with No. The relative vintage of the ’80s would appear to provide Chilean director Pablo Larraín far safer terrain. It is therefore
surprising that the success of No is not located in the forgiving buffer of two decades, but in the unnerving parallels it draws to recent political upheavals.

In his most sincere role since playing Che Guevara, Gael García Bernal leads an uncommonly earnest cast of ad-men and politicos in the run-up to Chile’s 1988 referendum on retaining General Pinochet’s rule. Disappointed by the official ‘no’ campaign’s promotional material, René (García Bernal) energises their political broadcasts with his outlandish commercial acumen.

The whole film is shot on low-definition videotape to seamlessly blend archival footage with the new. The effect is a glorious nod to the washed-out aesthetic of ’80s latin american advertising, and a humorous counterpoint to the technological preening of modern Hollywood.

No is a thrilling political drama with an important point to bear, albeit one filtered through the humour of 1980s fizzy-pop commercials. Oliver
Stone take note: here is a history lesson that is ripe for modern appreciation.

Verdict: 5/5

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