No (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 22, 2013 by Dennis Amith
It was great to see a film that focused on strategy, employment of tactics and a film that was intellectual and fascinating. Pablo Larrain’s “No” is smart, creative and a film that I recommend!
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 118 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (For Language)
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Screenplay by Pedro Peirano
Play written by Antonio Skarmeta
Produced by Daniel Marc Dreifuss, Juan de Dios Larrain, Pablo Larrain
Music by Carlos Cabezas
Cinematography by Sergio Armstrong
Edited by Andrea Chignoli
Art Direction by Estefania Larrain
Set Decoration by Maria Eugenia Hederra
Gael Garcia Bernal as Rene Saavedra
Alfredo Castro as Lucho Guzman
Luis Gnecco as Jose Tomas Urrutia
Nestor Cantillana as Fernando
Antonia Zegers as Veronica Carvajal
Marcial Tagle as Alberto Arancibia
Pascal Montero as Simon Saavedra
Jaime Vadell as Minister Fernandez
Elsa Poblete as Carmen
Diego Munoz as Carlos
Roberto Farias as Marcelo
Back in 2006, Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain received critical acclaim for his film “Fuga”, followed my success with two more films, “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem”.
But having grown up in a political family tied to the right wing, Larrain had nothing in common with the right and considered himself anti-Pinochet (August Pinoche was an army general and dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1981).
Larrain felt that with Augusto Pinochet in power, the Pinochet government was responsible for destroying culture and writers and artists were persecuted under his dictatorship.
But in 1988, a Chilean national plebiscite (a referendum on whether President Augusto Pinochet should remain in office for another eight years) was held and during that time, for 27 nights, those who supported or were against Pinochet would have 15 minutes per night to present their point of view and get people to vote.
For this unprecedented election in Chile, it would become the source for Pablo Larrain’s fourth film titled “No” starring Mexican film actor and director Gael Garcia Bernal (“Y tu mama tambien”, “The Motorcycle Diaries”, “Babel”). The film would be nominated for a “Best Foreign Language Film” at the 85th Academy Awards.
The 2012 film takes place in 1988 and a Chilean national plebiscite is to be held. Rene Saavedra (portrayed by Gael Garcia Bernal) is a successful advertisement director approached by the “No” side for consultation of their 15-minute advertising spots that would air on television for 27 nights, meanwhile his boss who is conservative wants him to be in charge of the “Yes” campaign and in return he would get a major account and make a lot of money.
Raising a son named Simone by himself, while his ex is with another man and often getting in trouble with the law as an activist, after seeing her beaten by law officials, he is more determined to consult the “No” advertising committee.
And in the beginning, the committee is more interested in showing how many people were tortured, how many people were incarcerated and the tyranny in the Pinochet dictatorship but Rene feels this is not the way to get people to vote. He proposes a more upbeat promotional approach in order to entice people to vote.
But all is not well as the opposition tries to intimidate Rene and let them know they are watching his family. But even with acts of trying to intimidate Rene, he is more determined in creating an advertising campaign that will lead people to vote against Pinochet. But what kind of marketing campaign will he come up with?
“No” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:40:1). It’s important to note that for this film, cinematographer Sergio Armstrong used a 1983 U-Matic video camera because it was instrumental to blend the archival footage to the film and make it feel realistic.
In an interview with “Bring the Noise UK”, Pablo Larrain said, “Every time I see a movie that has archive footage in the middle mixed, you can immediately tell, and it kills my illusion. It’s like you’re watching something and it has a film star shot in super 35mm, or high end HD, and then you cut to this old video format or stock footage and it just looks so different.”
So, the way the film was shot made it look like it was shot in the ’80s. The film was not made to look fantastic in HD but to make sure the film and its archived footage blend well together and because of that, I do feel that Pablo Larrain and Sergio Armstrong managed to capture the era and blend both archived footage and modern footage shot with the U-Matic with efficacy.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“No” is presented in Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA. While the film is primarily dialogue-driven, there are scenes with crowds and a scene with a riot that can be heard through the surround channels. But for the most part, the film is center and front-channel driven.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“No” come with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary with director Pablo Larrain and actor Gael Garcia Bernal.
- Q&A with Gael Garcia Bernal – (12:47) A Q&A with Gael Garcia Bernal at TIFF.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:43) Theatrical trailer for “No”
Typically when you watch political cinema in regards to an election, it tends to focus on strategies employed by both opposition parties.
From D.A Pennebaker’s documentary “The War Room” to films such as “The Contender”, “Election”, “Wag the Dog”, it’s primarily party-driven.
So, for Pablo Larrain to create a film that revolves around the marketing campaign during the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite, I found it quite intriguing because while these elections were featured on the news, I had no idea what kind of marketing campaign was used by the opposition against Army General Augusto Pinochet.
While we see the “Rock the Vote” campaigns in the U.S. bringing together celebrities and music artists to target the younger demographic, in Chile, they knew that those who weren’t sure they were going to vote were 60-year-old women and the younger voters.
Through research, they knew that older voters have been through the worst. They have seen the worst and possibly knew of people who have experienced the worse from Pinochet’s government. But at the same time, they are reluctant to vote, thinking that the election may be a scam, that the government would find a way to tamper with the voting system or even get them into trouble.
So, for the character of Rene Saavedra, a savvy advertising creator, he knew that he needed to reach out to these voters, not with the depressing or hard hitting facts of Pinochet’s government but to use celebrities, music and excitement that would get people to vote and make voting seem “cool”, especially as opposition to Pinochet’s government.
Despite the intimidation tactics used by those in support of Pinochet’s government, the film focuses on Rene Saavedra’s team employing tactics to shift public sympathy for the no-campaign. And what they come up with is fascinating and well-executed.
While the film received international acclaim, in Chile, the film did receive criticism for focusing too much on the marketing campaign. Genaro Arriagada who directed the “No” campaign felt there was too much focus on the advertising campaign and not the grassroot voter registration. But for filmmaker Pablo Larrain, he defended the film as art not a documentary.
While I felt the film was smart, I felt the use of the U-Matic video camera was creative and added to the believability and enjoyability of the film. I agree with Pablo Larrain that when you watch a documentary or a film that takes place in an era and the archived footage during these years of HD makes it seem unnatural, by going this direction for the film, I felt that Pablo Larrain was doing a great service to show that by using an older camera and achieving the look of the ’80s to go with the archived footage, worked to the film’s favor.
So, for this Blu-ray release, one should not approach the film expecting clear-cut detailed HD but expect a film that was capturing a look and feel of the ’80s where its archived footage would matchup to what you see in the film. Lossless audio was good but primarily dialogue driven as is expected with this film. And you get an audio commentary and Q&A segment for special features.
Overall, it was great to see a film that focused on strategy, employment of tactics and a film that was intellectual and fascinating. Pablo Larrain’s “No” is smart, creative and a film that I recommend!
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