Tony Manero

You can have too many John Travoltas. Trust me. A Travolta look-alike competition is not a good idea.

Before seeing the new Chilean film Tony Manero, I’d vaguely harboured ideas of watching Saturday Night Fever (because, shock horror, I never have), just to educate myself. But I don’t think I will.

Tony Manero

I found the film Tony Manero (as opposed to Travolta’s character Tony Manero) quite interesting in many ways. Despite being very aware of the situation in Chile after the coup, I couldn’t have imagined quite how bad it was for ordinary people.

So to set a man’s obsession with the character Tony Manero against a back-drop of Chile in 1978 is clever. It’s even interesting to see how obsessed a person can become with any one thing, and how ‘little’ aspects like Chilean secret police brutality can be ignored if it gets in the way, when your goal is within reach. This in itself would have made for a good film.

It’s the lengths Raúl will go to, that shocks. Glass bricks will never have the same charm again. Raúl is a 52-year-old loser, obsessed with Tony Manero, down to the detail of whether it’s one button or two. He kills indiscriminately, and only so that he can ‘become’ John Travolta’s character. ‘Wonderfully repulsive’ is one comment I’ve seen about this film. I’d like to remove the word ‘wonderfully’.

Santiago in the 1970s was poor. The people round Raúl all live and work and play closely together. Very closely. I suspect it wasn’t so much the violence as the nudity that gave this film an 18 rating.

I was only surprised to find that Raúl didn’t kill all his look-alike competitors while he was at it. He didn’t seem to mind selling his soul for any other small detail. Glass bricks and things.

(PS Alfredo Castro will be doing a Q&A session at Cornerhouse on Sunday 12th, which should be interesting.)

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