51st Chicago International Film Festival Screening #19: “The Club” (Chile)

“The Club” (Chile)
Directed by Pablo Larrain

B014_C010_0723EW“The Club” has been showered with awards at many festivals this season (including several awards at the Chicago Film Fest, where I screened it). The award I would give it is “The Palme d’OMG”. This is easily one of the most difficult films to watch I’ve ever sat through. The film revolves around the lives of four excommunicated priests, banished to a small village in Chile for the sin of sexually abusing minors while leading parishes…aaaaand it gets rougher from there. Much.

That’s not to say it’s a poorly made film. On the contrary. The reason it’s so uncomfortable is because of how well crafted (and scathing) the basic analogy is. The writers have created a stylized, minimalist, occasionally funny(!) and tightly written script. Sergio Armstrong’s photography seems, at first glance, to be done in error…it seems so filtered, as if watching through a gauze…but by film’s end, you realize how well it serves the film. Finally, the level of performances that are contained within are extraordinary. Alfredo Castro is particularly outstanding as one of the priests (I defy you to keep from bursting in to tears at his response to a pivotal moment toward the end). Roberto Farias and Alfredo Castro (as the loathsome stranger and the Church’s emissary, respectively) also stand out.

This is not a picture for the feint of heart, or for anyone who has trouble witnessing cinematic cruelty to innocents. Pablo Larrain (who directed the wonderful “No”) has produced a two hour homily which leaves you exhausted, outraged, unsettled and very, very sad. But if you think you can handle it, you should  see it. It’s been put forth as Chile’s representative for the Oscars and, based on its acclaim and its quality, it will, no doubt, be nominated.

Written 11/02/2015

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