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No: BD Review

Aug 5th, 2013

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This Oscar-nominated political drama starring Gael Garcia Bernal is one of the stranger dramatic oddities to hit Blu-ray so far this year...

Sony / 118 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: June 25, 2013

This writer found himself in the vortex of a full-tilt conundrum when it came to No, one of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s Oscars. In one capacity, it’s a political film that is patently and uniformally mired by shtick, a movie whose usage of old-timey camcorder-style photography intrigues for its first ten minutes then loses nearly 100% of its advent in terms of cinematic rhetoric. But on the other side of that coin, I can honestly say I can’t imagine the movie being filmed any other way.

Our world in No is Chile, and the guys who is on everyone’s mind is military dictator Augusto Pinochet, a divisive figure who still has his champions, but is so vilified by many of his people that it feels like even a minor push against the guy’s regime would topple it resoundingly. Enter Jose Urrutia (Luis Gnecco), a leader in a prominent anti-Pinochet campaign who learns that due to international pressure, the upcoming elections won’t be exercises in powermad dictatorial exploitation: both ‘Yes’ (pro-Pinochet) and ‘No’ (anti-) will get equal screen time on Chilean TV.

Urrutia smells opportunity here, and he approaches advertising and marketing maestro Rene Saavedra (Gael Garcia Bernal) to construct not just a good ‘No’ advert, but one that might inspire typically dormant cross-sections of voters to get up off their TV-room couches and actually participate in the grander national discussion for once. Saavedra agrees to give things a whirl, but as he (and, in kind, his audience) learns early on, the political quicksand of his new endeavor is rife with both flaring passions and devastating governmental setbacks.

But I still get hung up on No’s storytelling style. The retro-80s smear of the film certainly lends it a lived-in nostalgia that informs its overall feel and sensibility, but at multiple points throughout the picture, it seems as though the story at hand is slave to it, rather than simply finding extra resonance within it. That being said, my wishy-washiness on the subject makes me want to watch the movie again soon to see if a repeat viewing sheds any light on it, so in that capacity, it’s easy to call No a winking, slippery success.

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