No– Movie Review
For a film about the overthrow of a dictator, No is a bit slow. But for a film about two competing ad campaigns, it’s surprisingly entertaining.
In 1988, due to international pressure, Chilean ruler Gen. Augusto Pinochet was forced to put his 18-year rule to a popular vote, a plebiscite, to see if it would continue. In No, Gael García Bernal plays René, a hot shot young creative type at a big ad agency, who is recruited by the campaign opposing Pinochet in the plebiscite. The “No” campaign believes that the vote is fixed from the beginning, and all they can do is raise awareness of their causes. But under René’s leadership and insistence that they treat the political campaign like a marketing campaign, they pull a stunning upset.
This isn’t Mad Men. No really focuses on the “ad” campaign that René is building, and not on how much he drinks or whom he beds. And it’s fascinating seeing him at work, and the end results. Director Pablo Larraín produces not only a a great full length film, but several riveting short films as well in the ads produced by both campaigns. Larraín trusts his visuals, and allows the audience to see (without too much commentary) how cleverly the “No” campaign controls the conversation, and how haplessly Pinochet’s cronies try to respond. The director’s reverence for television and its power is evident, framing the tiny grainy box against blank backdrops or huge crowds gathered around.
It is possibly the last time you’ll cheer for guys turning politics into entertainment; but the context of the film makes clear that the glamour is needed to reach the disaffected portions of society who normally wouldn’t vote at all.
Larrain’s decision to film the whole movie on low-def video is distracting. So is his love of shooting into the sun, washing out whole scenes, and the occasional choppy cut that relocates characters too quickly through space. And much of the acting is so understated, it is almost sublimated. These and other issues make an otherwise interesting and important film drag at times.
Did you see No? What did you think?