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Posted on the 16 February 2013 by Shantanu Ghumare @u_me_films
NoWhen I first started writing this blog around one and half years back, one of the things that I promised myself was even though I am making this a film blog, I will try not to write full-fledged reviews as much as possible. In all reality major reason for this back then, was I never thought I will have enough to say about a movie that can constitute a review - I still don't think I do - and even if I did, I wouldn't know how to put it in words in a way that someone else would want to read, which has always been my problem with everything. Fortunately since the inception of this blog, being not so prolific blogger, I have been able to keep it afloat with minimal amount of them. But after all, this IS a film blog and I don't think I can have that with no reviews. So occasionally I allow myself to fall back and go for a review. Today is one such day that I am allowing myself this indulgence. If we discount the occasional mini-reviews post which is usually my escape route from not being able to write enough but coming across something that deserves to be mentioned and monthly wrap-up posts, this is my first review in almost two months and one before that was almost another two months back.
After Amour(2012) and A Royal Affair(2012), today's movie in focus - No(2012), is third movie that I have seen of this year's Foreign film line-up. It is worth mentioning that A Royal Affair was the last review I wrote. I guess I am more drawn to the foreign movies though in reality I see very few of them. So, No. Chile's submission to this year's Oscars and now, a nominee. This film is set in 1988. General Pinochet has been in power for 15 years after overthrowing President Allende in 1973. Bowing to the international pressures to legitimize his dictatorial rule, General Pinochet announces a public referendum to be held after couple of months. In this referendum, people of Chile are suppose to vote either Yes or No to grant Pinochet another term for 8 more years. And to give it more democratic look and giving fair chance to both the sides, another idea of giving 15 minutes of air-time to both the sides, Yes and No, for 27 days before the election was implemented. This movie follows the 'No' campaign or more specifically it follows Rene Saavedra, the man behind this campaign. Rene is young, dynamic and upcoming ad executive who has made quite a name for himself and for that very reason, No campaign wants them to work with them. After initial reluctance, he however agrees and they start working on 27 days worth of media battle.
NoTo tell you the truth, I wasn't exactly sure why Rene agrees to work for No. At one point very early in the movie before actual campaign starts, his boss implies his inclination towards Yes campaign. After that there is one incident involving his political activist ex-wife which didn't feel like reason enough to me but soon after that, he joins No. Before the two sides start their fight against each other, Rene also has to fight within the campaign. Most of the people in the campaign think that this referendum is rigged and they don't have much chance of winning. So they want to use this one chance they have to make as much of political splash as possible. They want to expose what an oppressor Pinochet has been over the years. They want to bring forth all his scams, his crimes, his two-faced behavior and hope that sometime in the future, people will rally against him. Rene wants to present them as a viable alternative to Pinochet. He prefers putting out a good face to attract people rather than going all out against Pinochet. Once 27 days start, there is a very interesting dynamics that develops between the two camps. The way these two groups act and react, punches and counter punches they throw at each other is what makes this movie fascinating. My main interest in this movie being political, I certainly would have loved to see a little more political side of it though. If they win, Pinochet's opponents will have to run the country and I would have loved to see how they were planning on doing it. But I guess, Rene will not be a part of these circles which puts it outside the scope of this movie.

Directed by Pablo Larrain, this film is third installment after Tony Manero(2008) and Post Mortem(2010), of loose trilogy of movies set in Pinochet's reign. Political setting and tone of this movie is what intrigued me the most besides all the buzz it is getting thanks to its nomination. It is a very small but very important period in the history of the country and Larrain manages to set the whole table very nicely, even for those of us unaware of any background. After watching the movie, I was looking for some more information regarding this campaign and I found few videos that were actually aired in 1988 and I was stunned to see how similar they looked to what we see in a movie. It is unbelievable when you think about how much time and energy must have into making them exactly same. He covers lots of facets of both the campaigns and keeps it thouroughly engaging for whole run-time. Initial reluctance of Yes campaign to take No seriously and threats, intimidation that swiftly follows once No starts getting support, how two campaigns change each other for better or for worse is all very interesting. No also looks at Rene's personal life a little with the help of his political activist ex-wife and their son. His ex-wife's plot is probably the most under-developed plot which film touches only gingerly. They should have either took it somewhere or left it all alone.

NoYoung and dynamic Rene Saavedra, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, is the heart and soul of this movie and as we have seen him many times before, he turns up another stunning performance.  He has some kind of unattached, 'Just another day at the office' expression but he also makes sure it isn't aloof or unaffected. His ability to work tirelessly for the cause but at the same time keep this distance from his work is probably what makes him sought after. The way Bernal catches all the undertones of this character is amazing. His boss who is interestingly running the Yes campaign is also a very interesting character. However, most striking aspect of this movie has to be the look and feel of this movie and the fact that it was a conscious stylistic choice makes it even more intriguing. After watching the movie I learned that Larrain shot the whole movie with U-matic video cameras which were used by the TV crews in the times movie is set in. It has its problems like for one thing, now-a-days that we are used to more and more better quality picture, it looks very odd. It's grainy, has very low resolution and on multiple occasions, Sun or the reflection off the nearby surface blocks half of the screen. But it gave one distinct advantage - it allowed him to use some of the actual footage that was aired in 1988. And he uses it so perfectly that you will never know which shot is real archival footage and which is not.
As far as the Oscars go, I think Amour pretty much has it in the bag. However despite not winning, I believe No serves as a great showcase for the film industry in Chile, which frankly is what I feel the foreign category in Oscars should be about. Off course, it is great if you can win but if not at least it should be seen as a platform to get people interested. Something Indian authorities should take note of, as looking at the movies that are sent in recent years, I don't think is high up in their priorities.
Rating(out of 5):No

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