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Review: El Conde. An unorthodox comedy with historical value

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Pablo Larraín.
  • Producers: Rocío Jadue and Juan de Dios Larraín.
  • Screenplay by: Guillermo Calderón and Pablo Larraín.
  • Cinematographer: Edward Lachman.
  • Musical Director: Christian Lorca.

Synopsis: Pinochet never died, he is a vampire, and now that he wants to die, his children go to him to inherit his stolen fortune.

Shotgun Commentary: kinda funny, very weird. Nice concept with a very sloppy delivery.

Pinochet’s family tightly smiling at him in greeting.
Source: El Conde (Pablo Larraín, 2023).

Review

El Conde proposes an alternative future in which Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) is a 250 years old vampire that, after living for long, decides that he wants to die. As a result of this, he hints to his children the location of his fortune, which they will spend the whole film looking for.

To help his plan of dying, one of her daughters hires a nun, Carmencita (Paula Luchsinger), to exorcise the devil out of him and kill him. However, she behaves strangely and asks a lot of questions that do not seem completely related to the matter she’s been hired for.

What a count

El Conde is essentially a comedic excuse to critique and denounce Pinochet’s crimes, and to remind the audiences about what really happened in Chile during his military regime. The quirkiness of the characters and their brutal honesty create dialogues brimming with acid humour and sarcasm. This form of communication, along with the surreal situations that take place, make a very original and entertaining piece.

Pinochet. Source: El Conde (Pablo Larraín, 2023).

History seen from a fantastic outlook is a very successful spin that should be done more often, especially if one wants to expose horrible truths from the past while avoiding the drama genre. This storytelling strategy works to share historical content with people who generally avoid the subject, widening your objective audience, thus spreading your message further.

The pace is mostly right. There is a slowdown in the second half of it that quickly recovers with one of the most ludicrous and hilarious plot twist that have been done in years. The addition of this specific character to the narrative as Pinochet’s mother is exactly the jumpstart that your brain need to recuperate the interest and maintain it until the end of the feature. It is bonkers and nothing makes sense from then on, but at that point you sort of just go with it and let it be. It is a fun time anyway.

Almost… but no

The performance aspect of El Conde is not quite right. While the movie is eccentric enough to make it hard to determine whether the actors are doing a great job or a terrible one, one of the persons involved is so bad you can actually tell. Most of the cast deliver their lines well, the characters are not too demanding. The less expression you show, the funnier it gets, so other than not laughing at things you say, there are not many challenges.

Carmencita (Paula Luchsinger) in the convent. Source: El Conde (Pablo Larraín, 2023).

The only person who needs to show a bit more range is Carmencita. When the vampire-hunting nun first appears, she seems to be similar to Van Helsing: fearless, direct and practical, if maybe a bit odd. Sadly, the more you know of her personality and goals, the more you realise that the acting makes no sense.

During the comedy/criticism scenes when Carmencita is asking direct and intrusive questions to Pinochet, his family and butler, her unusual behaviour is engaging. Regrettably, both her character and her acting plummet the minute other things begin happening. The nun’s arch is confusing and disappointing, and Luchsinger’s portrayal is overall underwhelming with a hint of cringe.

Pretty? Yeah. Original? Not so much

From an aesthetical point of view, El Conde is fundamentally Roma (2018) meets The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Visually, the use of black and white with a careful balance of light, shadow and contrast, remind of the Mexican film. While the carefully curated angles and movements evokes Wes Anderson’s signature style. All these elements combined produce a beautiful cinematography that adds value to the narrative.

Vampire feeding. Source: El Conde (Pablo Larraín, 2023).

As for the auditory perspective, the combination of “Tenenbaumian” upbeat orchestral music with Roma style silences and use of natural ambient noises, creates a unique experience for your ears that matches the idiosyncratic nature of the plot and its visual execution.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • If you are going to kill a vampire, just get on with it, don’t wait around to be killed.
  • Never underestimate your parents’ “hoarding”, there may be unexpected treasures lying around.
  • Human cruelty knows no limits.
Pinochet and his uniform. Source: El Conde (Pablo Larraín, 2023).

What’s your take? Have you watched El Conde? What did you think of the film? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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