Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
NYFF ’12: The Dead Man and Being Happy
speaking, Santos is a marvel. Despite
his dangerous line of work, it will be the sicknesses of old age that kill
him. This will be a dubious blessing for
the hitman. Both his ravaged body and
troubled conscience will torment him in Javier Rebello’s The Dead Man and Being Happy (trailer here), which screens tomorrow
as a main slate selection of the 50th New York Film Festival.
expatriate Spaniard had a long career.
He killed many people, but he cannot remember his first. This bothers him. Packing up the vintage Ford Falcon with a
cooler full of morphine, Santos will run through the list obsessively as he
embarks on a road trip into the countryside.
He has blown off his final assignment, perhaps as a form of indirect
suicide. Nonetheless, he panics every
time he thinks he sees “the large man with thick glasses and tiny eyes” who
commissioned the job Santos walked away from.
Santos picks up Erika, who will start off as a traveling companion and become a
nurse, among other ambiguous roles. He
is lucky to have her. When the drugs run
out, it is not a pretty sight. Nor is José
Sacristán’s naked body, which viewers have two opportunities to see in all its
splotchiness this weekend, between Dead
Man and David Trueba’s Madrid, 1987,
which just opened at the Quad, finally finding its way to New York from this
year’s Sundance. Frankly, that might be
more than weaker eyes can stand.
he is quite good as Santos, tapping into deep wells of world weary regret. Sacristán also seems to be making of habit of
playing nude scenes with much younger actresses, so hats off to him. Roxana Blanco might not be riveting, but she
projects a suitably warm, compassionate presence as Erika. Jorge Jellinek, the Uruguayan film critic who
was so pitch-perfect in Federico Veiroj’s A Useful Life, hardly has much opportunity to stretch his acting chops here,
but he always looks interesting as the big man with small eyes.
regardless of his cast’s merits, it is Rebello who truly dominates the film
through his constant use two ironic narrators.
There is not much need to emote when the audience is told before each
scene exactly what the characters will feel. While it is often clever in individual instances,
the cumulative effect is rather exhausting.
It is the sort of self-conscious stylization that quickly displays diminishing
Sacristán and Rebello have a keen sense of how
much they should each respectively reveal of Santos and how much they should
also keep veiled. However, the forced eccentricity
of the stops along the way will drive many viewers to distraction. A mixed bag, but an impressive showcase for
its lead, the awkwardly titled The Man
and Being Happy screens again tomorrow (10/14) at Alice Tully Hall, as the
2012 NYFF enters its concluding weekend.
Labels: Jose Sacristan, NYFF '12