Disappointing... yet brilliant

Random and not-so-random thoughts about movies

LFF#9: The Dead Man And Being Happy

Most years at the LFF I end up seeing something that is broadly like the work of Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismaki, including some of favourite festival entries like Lake Tahoe and J’ai Toujours Rêvé d’Etre Un Gangster*. This, I think, fits squarely in that tradition. Every scene of the film is narrated by a measured female voice, sometimes describing exactly what we are seeing, sometimes providing a bit of background information or an ironic spin. At the end of some sections, she is joined by a male voice. It’s a conceit that I think only hardened viewers of art house films would tolerate.

 Anyway, the person whose actions she is filling us in on is Santos, an ageing Spaniard living, or rather dying, in Buenos Aires. He’s a hitman who has lost his taste for the job. Taking a small icebox of morphine with him, he hits the road* in his beloved ’70s station wagon. Heading deep into the country, he comes across strange places and lost people. The most significant of these is Erika, his travelling companion for the final days of his life. 

It’s a short but sedately paced film of small incidents. There are good moments - the faux-Alpine spa town for the last geriatric Nazis left in Argentina, the bribing of a traffic cop with a figurine of the Virgin Mary and a comedy tape. But we also see Santos struggling to find a part of his body to inject himself, which is (rightly) tough going.

It’s not a film I would recommend freely, but if meandering and curious are good things as far as you are concerned, there is something here.

*A lovely film that I don’t think ever got a UK release

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