Starring: Jaime Vadell, Gloria Münchmeyer, Alfredo Castro, Paula Luchsinger, Catalina Guerra, Marcial Tagle, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, and Stella Gonet
Director: Pablo Larraín
El Conde is so many things at once: scathing, gruesome, wickedly funny, absurd, and beautiful. Director Pablo Larraín re-imagines the infamous Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, as a literal blood-thirsty monster who, much like his real-life legacy, refuses to die. This is an ingenious way of confronting Chile’s traumatic recent past, allowing Larraín to make a mockery of the dictator, showing him miserable and wasting away in his crumbling mansion. The black and white cinematography is striking and brimming with visual references, creating an absurd alternate reality that traps all the characters within it. This film will stick in my mind for a while.
In its entirety, El Conde isn’t a movie that I enjoyed. Despite the intriguing and outlandish logline, it’s surprisingly boring, but it’s possible that it works better for people who have some knowledge of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, of which I have very little. Perhaps that is why the satire didn’t hit for me. That said, director Pablo Larraín was able to create a surreal and haunting atmosphere that is well suited to the content, but this mix of Knives Out and Roma falls into the “movies I respect more than like” bucket.
It’s hard for me to say that El Conde doesn’t overstay its welcome a bit, but I still feel it accomplished its goal of being a sharp and funny satire. Granted, some of its ideas overshadow the overall goal, and it leans a little too hard into the gore and surrealist elements, meaning the film’s political angle easily gets lost in the madness. But Pablo Larraín’s direction and Edward Lachman’s slick black-and-white cinematography make this a unique viewing experience that, for better and for worse, is unlike anything you’ll see this year.
This film was reviewed by Quentin as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Venice International Film Festival.