J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tribeca ’15: Scherzo Diablolico

There is nothing like music to summon deeply buried sense-memories. That is why music therapists have had such success treating Alzheimer’s patients. On the other hand, it is not so pleasant for a school girl held captive by a classical piano loving sociopath. However, just when he thinks he has completely realized his plan, karma does what it does in Adrián García Bogliano’s Scherzo Diabolico, which screens during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

Aram seems like the nebbish drone at a boiler-room law firm, whose work keeps his manager Licenciado Granovsky looking good with upper management. This will soon change. Tired of being a doormat, Aram will kidnap Granovsky’s diabetic daughter Anabela, using the same meticulous planning that makes him such a valuable employee. As the weeks pass without news of his daughter, the completely destabilized Granovsky never notices all the other little things Aram does to undermine his position. Eventually, Aram replaces his terminated boss, just like he planned. However, he will be completely blind-sided by the third act.

Scherzo plods along a bit early on and frankly it seems to be missing some obvious establishing shots, but if you are confident enough to fill in the gaps, the big reversal quite a sight to behold. Over the top hardly begins to describe it. This is horror-revenge filmmaking on an operatic scale, fueled by Romantic Era classical music. If you are inclined towards pedantry than you will miss out on the pleasures of its bold, gory spectacle.

As Aram, Francisco Barreiro stands apart from recent movie villains, making the audience truly despise him, before almost winning back their sympathy down the stretch—almost, but not quite. Indeed, Scherzo raises viewers’ indignant blood lust almost as much as José Manuel Cravioto’s Reversal. Likewise, Juan of the Dead director Jorge Molina’s Granovsky evolves in very complicated, human ways, constantly challenging the audience to reassess him. In contrast, Daniela Soto Vell only uses two speeds to play Anabela, but the second is something else entirely.

If that weren’t enough, Scherzo also boasts one of the most distinctive opening credit sequences since the days of Saul Bass. It is not simply cool looking. It helps link the piano sonatas with a sense of ominous foreboding. This is a film very much about the transforming power of music. We usually just assume it will be transformative in a good way, because only a philistine would argue to contrary—but not in this case. (It is also worth noting the titular composition was penned by Charles-Valentin Alkan, who bitterly resented being passed over for a Conservatoire position.) Stylish and outrageous, Scherzo Diabolico is not quite as sly and satisfying as Bolgiano’s Late Phases, but it is on par with his Here Comes the Devil. Highly recommended for fan of horror and dark payback thrillers, it screens again next Saturday (4/25), as part of this year’s Tribeca.

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