Sunday, September 03, 2023

El Conde / The Count (world premiere in the presence of Pablo Larraín and Ed Lachman)

Pablo Larraín: El Conde / The Count (CL 2023), photographed by Ed Lachman, starring Jaime Vadell as Augusto Pinochet.

Palm, Telluride Film Festival (TFF), 3 Sep 2023.
Pablo Larraín and Edward Lachman interviewed by Karen Kusama.

Larry Gross (TFF 2023): " In NERUDA, EL CLUB and NO, Pablo Larraín interrogated the legacy of Augusto Pinochet’s murderous military dictatorship in Chile, his homeland. Now, with stunning comic audacity, he confronts that same beast head on, depicting Pinochet as a vampire, part of a monstrous lineage of 250 years of European political violence. Rapacious children covet the evil one’s hidden wealth, a crazed nun hopes to subject him to an exorcism and a devious butler shares his appetite for torture. The icy, witty narration is spoken by none other than—wait for it—Margaret Thatcher! Telluride tributee Ed Lachman’s visionary black-and-white cinematography moves with astonishing fluidity through the centuries, with incisive references to Buñuel, Dreyer, and Pasolini. A work of soaring visionary intensity, Larraín has taken the history film to a funny, gruesome and terrifyingly true new sphere … and you’ll never look at a blender in quite the same way. " –LG (Chile, 2023, 110 m) In person: Pablo Larraín, Ed Lachman

Festival premiere: 31 Aug 2023 Venice Film Festival.
American festival premiere: 1 Sep 2023 Telluride Film Festival.
Chilean premiere: 7 Sep 2023.

AA: Last night we saw a modern take on the Frankenstein legend (Poor Things by Yorgos Lanthimos). This morning, Pablo Larraín surprises us with an exceptional Dracula retelling: El Conde.

As a gory horror movie, El Conde delivers. I have been puzzled and confused by the trend in recent decades to transform the vampire (for me, Death incarnate) into a romantic love object in popular fiction such as Twilight

El Conde is a political saga about the ageing Augusto Pinochet after his reign of terror in Chile. The Van Helsing figure is a nun about to explore the immense wealth of the Pinochet family, still hidden in the archipelago of tax havens around the world. Margaret Thatcher, the narrator, had also an unexpectedly central role in the saga covering centuries, since 18th century pre-revolutionary France. Vampires are undead, eternal, here a symbol of the impunity that protected Pinochet in England.

I had misgivings before the film, but the improbable formula works quite well. In the intelligent Q&A after the screening Larraín said that it is not clear what is the right time to tell about Pinochet: do we have the proper perspective? El Conde is an answer to that question.

The remarkable black and white cinematography has been conducted in actual black and white, not in colour turned to monochrome, by the maestro Edward Lachman.

As many during this edition of the Telluride Film Festival, Lachman commented on Tom Luddy and his uncanny talent of bringing together people who would become meaningful for each other - in this case, Pablo Larraín and Ed Lachman in El Conde.

The music track is powerful and versatile. The theme tune is the Radetzkymarsch performed by an orchestra for this film, carrying many allusions with a personal touch, not excluding humour.

The film comes to premiere on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Chilean coup d'état. The democratically elected president Salvador Allende and his government were overthrown by the military, and Allende was killed on 11 September 1973. At the time I was performing military service at the Vekaranjärvi forest garrison. I glued on the cover of my notebook a newspaper photograph of Allende wearing a helmet and a classic AK-47 assault rifle, just like the personal weapon of us Finnish soldiers back then. I participated in the international Chilean solidarity movement and visited engrossing concerts with Chilean artists. Chile's cause was ours.

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