Pablo Larraín, No, 2012, color film in 35 mm, 115 minutes. René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal).


A FEW YEARS AGO, a French friend introduced me to an invaluable word: cinephage, or one who indiscriminately consumes—and is consumed by—the movies. Rodney Ascher’s dense yet nimble cine-essay Room 237, which screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight, highlights the results of gorging on and being consumed by one movie in particular: Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterwork The Shining (1980). Five obsessive experts on Kubrick’s film spin out their theories at length (they are heard but never seen), including journalist Bill Blakemore, who declares that The Shining takes on nothing less than “the nightmare of history.” Specifically, Blakemore believes Kubrick is addressing the slaughter of American Indians, proving his thesis by pointing out, among other clues, the prominent placement of cans of Calumet baking powder with its Indian-head logo. Ascher illustrates his fixated interlocutors’ ideas with scenes not just from The Shining (sometimes run in slo-mo, occasionally backward) but other Kubrick works (2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut feature prominently). Blakemore proves to be Room 237’s most persuasive speaker; least convincing (and most unhinged) is Jay Weidner, who insists that The Shining serves as Kubrick’s acknowledgment of his involvement in faking the Apollo 11 moon-landing photos.

Another “nightmare of history”—the Pinochet regime—is the focus of Pablo Larraín’s superb No, also screening in the Directors’ Fortnight. The final installment (following 2008’s Tony Manero and 2010’s Post Mortem) in Larraín’s trilogy on the Chilean dictator, No is set in 1988, when Pinochet, bowing to international pressure, called for a referendum to determine whether he could extend his rule for another eight years. Those who want the tyrant gone approach advertising executive René (Gael García Bernal, in his finest performance) to oversee the “No” campaign spots, allotted only fifteen minutes of airtime on TV (the “Sí” ads take up the remaining twenty-three-plus hours). René, the son of a political dissident—and a composite of the men involved in the actual “No” campaign—uses his savvy in peddling soda, microwaves, and soap operas to craft anti-Pinochet spots filled not with footage of brutality and torture but with rainbows, jingles, anthems, and mimes. Larraín’s re-creations of these incongruously exhilarating (I haven’t been able to get the chant “Chile, la alegría ya viene” out my head) ads are intercut with the originals themselves. That they were instrumental in leading to democratic elections in 1989 after sixteen years of oppression proved one of the most unlikely ways that a revolution could be televised.

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Chile, la alegría ya viene ad campaign.

Melissa Anderson