Inventive, creepy Chilean psycho-thriller
Directed by Pablo Larrain
Starring Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Paola Lattus
Tony Manero takes place in the crumbling backstreets of Santiago in 1978, at the height of Pinochet’s murderous dictatorship. Co-writer Alfredo Castro plays Raúl, a seedy fifty-ish peacock who dreams of escaping his wretched existence by impersonating John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever hero on a low-rent TV talent show. To realise this goal he is prepared to betray, batter and even kill his friends and lovers.
Mostly shot on shaky hand-held cameras in dingy back rooms, Tony Manero creates a purgatorial Chile, with police death squads lurking on every street corner. But Larrain never strains for obvious political allegory –sure, Raúl’s obsession with the big Hollywood import of the era serves as a metaphor for US cultural imperialism, but works just as well as an illustration of his impoverished imagination and midlife sexual anxiety. A highly original portrait of a sociopath in a corrupt, festering, morally bankrupt society, this bleakly funny psycho-horror movie makes for clammy, compulsive viewing.