Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
El Hipnotizador: A Lone Mesmerist Comes to Town
say nobody can be hypnotized to commit a crime that violates their bedrock
sense of morality. Of course, that principle should not present a lot of
obstacles for mesmerist Natalio Arenas in this murky, noirish town. He will
also use his powers to help people, even though the truths he unveils are often
bitterly harsh. Arenas will put a lot of subjects to sleep, but ironically,
some sort of curse keeps him from slumbering himself. Sanity and reality are
not always what they seem in El Hipnotizador (trailer here), which
premiered on HBO Latino last night.
Maddin were to adapt The Prestige roughly
sometime in the 1930s in an ambiguously unplaceable Brazilian, Uruguayan, or
Argentine city, it would look incredible—and perhaps not so very different from
El Hipnotizador. We know from the
prologue Arenas can use his skills like a lethal weapon, but in the first two
episodes, he mostly employs them to bring peace to troubled minds—and to make a
premiere episode commences, Arenas is due to open as part of the low rent vaudeville
running at the Rex Theatre. Of course, Arenas is the real deal, but the fortune
teller also might be partially legit as well. Naturally, they have showgirls
too, but to the credit of director Alex Gabassi, they are not used as naked
window dressing—at least not yet.
it is not just the honor of performing at the Rex that has brought Arenas to
this highly picturesque but vaguely oppressive city. It is also home to Darek,
the shadowy figure responsible for Arenas’ preternatural insomnia. However,
neither man seems eager to hasten a showdown in the early going. In fact, Arenas
will get as comfortable as he ever gets at the Las Violetas Hotel, where
Salinero the desk clerk and Anita the maid provide sympathetic assistance.
is hard to render a conclusive judgment from two out eight episodes, the series’
spectacular visual style is already incontrovertibly established. Fans of weird
urban fantasy will absolutely flip out over Hipnotizador.
It deserves to be a breakout hit solely for the work of cinematographer Pedro
Luque and the art and design team.
bonus, the cast is also quite accomplished. Leonardo Sbaraglia steadily reels in
viewers as the quiet but conspicuously haunted Arenas, pulling us into deeper
and deeper levels of fascination with the sad-eyed antihero. (Uruguayan) Cesar
Troncoso’s Salinero and (Brazilian) Bianca Comparato’s Anita nicely hint at
their potential romantic chemistry while also developing slightly awed
relationships with Sbaraglia’s Arenas. As Darek, Chico Díaz appears to have a fine
affinity for scheming and scenery chewing, while second episode guest star Gero
Camilo is especially notable as Calambó, a fellow hotel guest who psychologically and metaphysically
loses a day.
Fans of Jorge Luis Borges and Arturo Ripstein should be delighted with Hipnotizador, but it is actually much
more audience-accessible and genre-friendly than their iconic work. It
definitely sets the hook early. Recommended for fans of the surreal and the noir,
El Hipnotizador will be available on
HBO Latino, HBO On Demand, HBO Go, and HBO Now.
Labels: HBO Latino, Mesmerism