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Directed by Pablo Larrain

Chile, 2011

Cornerhouse, 9 February 2013


Raymond Chandler is a great writer, but sometimes he got it wrong.

Take his description of advertising as being, or entailing, an ‘elaborate waste of human intelligence’: well you’d have to say that, in the main, he was right.  Indeed, he got it spot on.  But there are exceptions.

The present film outlines one such case in point.  It relates how a coterie of advertising ‘creatives’ (an oxymoron normally used to describe a moron, granted) managed to topple Pinochet’s dictatorship and in so doing help bring democracy to Chile.  Moreover, they used smiley happy people, catchy jingles, fluff and schmaltz to do it.

Larrain tells the story well.  What’s especially effective is the contrast between the light, cheery ‘No’ campaign (in a referendum for or against Pinochet) and the terror, threat and brutality (overt and covert) of the established regime.  One moment you’re tapping your foot and scoping the dodgy ‘80s hairstyles, next you fear for these people’s lives.  It’s a jarring frission.

If you want a strapline, the film itself is like Mad Men meets Marquez.  (The Marquez of Autumn of the Patriarch, to be precise.)