(director/writer:Pablo Larrain; screenwriter: Guillermo Calderón; cinematographer: Ed Lachman; editor: Sofía Subercaseaux; music: Juan Pablo Ávalo, Marisol García; cast: Jaime Vadell (El Conde), Gloria Münchmeyer (Lucia), Alfredo Castro (Fyodor), Paula Luchsinger (Carmencita), Catalina Guerra (Luciana), Marcial Tagle (Anibal), Amparo Noguera (Mercedes), Diego Muñoz (Manuel), Antonia Zegers (Jacinta), Stella Gonet (Margaret); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue; Netflix; 2023-B/W – Chile-in Spanish, French, English, with English subtitles)
“It’s a well-acted, audacious film for those willing to overlook logic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Chilean director Pablo Larrain (“Jackie”/”Spencer”) co-writes with Guillermo Calderón this surreal satire on the evil Pinochet Regime and how it still affects modern-day Chile in a negative way. It mixes in an exploration on the dark side of politics, a black comedy, a vampire horror story and the covert operations of fascism in the 21st century as a need to be a buffer against Islamic extremists and “woke” society.
It has Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) as a 250-year-old vampire who came of age as a reactionary bloodsucker in the French military during the Revolution, who drifts across Europe as Dracula to wind up in Santiago, Chile, where he rose in rank as a general in the army and came to power in the 1973 coup (overturning the Socialist elected president, Allende, and remained in power from 1973 to 1990).
We view Pinochet 50 years after the coup, after the filmmaker has him faking his own death at his funeral in 2006, as he now must act covertly to get his way back into Chile’s politics.
El Conde (The Count), the name he preferred being called, also must deal with his nasty ageing wife (Gloria Münchmeyer) and bickering useless and spoiled 5 adult children, and his loyal butler, who ran the ‘death camps.’ He’s a reactionary White Russian named Fyodor (Alfredo Castro), who has some memorable things to say to his master, as they discuss how much they loved torturing dissidents and stealing from the state in the good ‘ole’ days.
The general’s dependents have also agreed to a forensic inspection of his papers to find where he has hidden his looted millions so they can get hold of it. We also come upon an accountant/nun (Paula Luchsinger) who intends to exorcise him and purify his legacy, just as the Church is doing with Pinochet at present.
We will also be treated to see Pinochet’s greatest supporters as vampires, who helped the Chilean general gain power in 1973.
The alt-history aspects of this bizarre tale in a trying way points to the struggle the Chilean people still have of confronting their horrific agonies of the past and uncertain present.
It’s a well-acted, audacious film for those willing to overlook logic. It goes full-blast in attack-mode on the evil dictator and his evil supporters who made their life miserable, and it points out that these fascists still haven’t completely vanished from power.
The great cinematographer Ed Lachman shoots it in a beautifully textured black and white.
It played at the Venice Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 9/20/2023 GRADE: B+