Sunday, October 22, 2023

El Conde

Movie Name:
El Conde
Year of Release: 2023
Director: Pablo Larrain
Starring: Jaime Vadell, Paula Luchsinger, Alfredo Castro, Gloria Munchmeyer, Stella Gonet, Catalina Guerra, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Diego Muñoz, Clemente Rodriguez, Marcelo Alonso, Jaime McManus
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
"El Conde" the newest feature from writer/producer/director Pablo Larrain premiered at the Venice Film Festival of 2023 where it won the award for best screenplay. It follows a string of critically well received features from the director, which includes the high prominent and Academy Awards nominated "Jackie", which featured Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy and "Spencer", which featured Kristen Stewart as Diana Spencer. This time around Larrain tackles the script alongside Guillermo Calderon, his usual collaborator with whom he also wrote "Neruda" and "El Club". Their narrative this time around focuses on Claude Pinoche, who is soon revealed to be a vampire. He witnesses the French Revolution and the execution of queen Marie Antoinette. He fakes his death and flees Europe, eventually finding himself in Chile, where he joins the army under the name of Augusto Pinochet. He overthrows the government of Salvador Allende in 1973 and becomes the de facto dictator of the country, always demanding to be addressed as "The Count". After he leaves office, authorities begin investigating him for his crimes, both humanitarian and financial. He fakes his death and retires to a remote farm with his wife Lucia and his butler Fyodor, whom he turned to a vampire as well. Fyodor in the meantime goes on a gruesome killing spree, using the Count's military uniform. The Pinochet offspring, fearful for the worst, and afraid of losing their inheritance, hire a nun by the name of Carmen, to exorcise and kill their father. However as Carmen goes on her investigation, things take a different turn, which bring into the scene none other than Margaret Thatcher. 
"El Conde" truly is a unique take on the history of Chile, by one of its most celebrated storytellers and film makers. It offers a distinct point of view on the Pinochet character who horrifically marked the history of the country, and who to this day, continues to leave profound marks in terms of the horrors that he inflicted and the wounds that have been left behind. Larrain and Calderon smartly weave this story of this horrific dictator as a Vampire, who after three centuries of destruction has lost the lust and shimmer for life. They create this generational dynamic, where the offspring of this individual, even knowing the monstrosity of what he did and devastation of what he has inflicted on others, still want to benefit from all the financial wealth he has amassed. The director smartly builds these family interactions as very matter of factly greed driven conversations, without ever depicting the family members as ogres or caricatures of monsters. They are petty, they are solely driven by self interest, and in that lies the dark comedy that comes from the film itself. Greed and money surpass the value of life and of the pain their father inflicted on the whole country. Carmen, who is a vessel of virtue in the middle of all that moral corruption, of all those soulless individuals, does bring to the count a glimmer of life, of someone who is unlike anyone else in his life. And while she does fall under his charm and personality, she soon is sacrificed, and in the process so is the sense that humanity's ability for compassion, honesty and for valuing human life, they all fall prey to money and power. The fact that Margaret Thatcher appears in the third act, is another delicious bite to another controversial figure. It's an extremely intelligent film, featuring a solid cast, with highlights going to Jaime Vadell, Alfredo Castro and Paula Luchsinger, with a stunning cinematography from Edward Lachman and art direction by Tatiana Maulen. A solid film worth watching.