Friday, August 17, 2007
Based on a stage play by Jordi Galcern,The Method
delivers a darkly comic take on corporate competitiveness. Filmmaker Marcelo Pineyro has adapted the play to the screen without opening it up much. Theres a stylish split screen open leading us to the corporation and providing a social context for the drama. Outside the corporate headquarters, there's a massive protest brewing, and cops search people and vehicles for possible bombs. But inside the corporation, everything is neat, clean and orderly. As the story unfolds, we realize that the play really doesnt need opening up. In fact, it needs a certain claustrophobia so that we will feel as trapped and desperate as the interview candidates.
Argentina's The Method (Palm Pictures)
The Method is not as nasty as In The Company of Men (but then few things are) nor does it find the kind of deadpan observational humor of Ricky Gervais The Office. It tries, with mixed success, to make some observations about the current climate of corporate culture, and it gets a few good jabs in. The acting ensemble, led by Edouard Noriega and Najwa Nimri, is solid and the actors manage to capture certain character types found too often within the corporate community. The most entertaining of these is a man who cannot maintain an opinion for fear it will be the wrong one so he continually flip flops from one position to another in the hopes that he will offend no one.
A much warmer and fuzzier feel is generated by Daniel Burmans Family Law, which screened at opening night of this years San Diego Latino Film Festival. Burman also directed Lost Embrace , which played at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival in 2005. Both films deal with questions of family and especially relationships of fathers and sons.
In Family Law, Ariel Perelman (Daniel Hendler) is the son of a highly successful father, Bernardo Perelman (Arturo Goetz). Ariel narrates the story and begins the film by introducing us to his father, or more precisely to his fathers daily routine as a lawyer in Buenos Aires. We speed through a day with senior Perelman as he maximizes every minute, combining a bite to eat with a client meeting, or a morning coffee with buying a knick-knack to win over a court clerk. He breezes through his day, practically dancing down the steps of the courthouse. Hes an amazing man and its easy to see how it might be difficult to grow up in his shadow. Ariel has decided, as he puts it, to choose a career in justice rather than the law. So he teaches and works as a public defender. When his office is forced to close for a few weeks due to massive repairs to the building's crumbling architecture, Ariel is forced to take time off and reflect on his life and his relationship with his father.
Daniel Hendler considers life in Family Law (New Yorker Films)
Writer-director Burman is skilled at crafting telling details in the relationships of his characters. He makes Ariel and his father appealing in different ways as they quietly try to resolve the conflicts in their relationship. Daniel Hendler as the son, always looks a bit lost and bewildered, except when hes in his classroom. Arturo Goetz as the respected Dr. Perelman, has old school charm as a gracefully aging man who has his life almost completely wired.
Family Law has a sweet sense of how families try to interact and connect. Burman also maintains a gently compassionate perspective on its characters and their foibles. Theres nothing big about this film but it's filled with small joys and insights.
The Method and Family Law are both unrated and in Spanish with English subtitles. The Media Arts Center's executive director Ethan Van Thillo says that the decision to run the films in pairs reflects the fact that they just wanted to offer more choice: "After seven years of presenting one film per month, the San Diego Latino Film Festival once again is breaking new ground in the world of Latino Cinema, by offering San Diego audiences to the rare chance to see two films per month in our new "Countdown to 15" four-month film series of Latin American, Mexican and Spanish Cinema. By providing two films per month,
local audiences now have more of a choice of great Latino Cinema and we hope
it gives everyone a little taste of what our annual San Diego Latino Film
Festival is all about."
Tickets: $9.50 General Admission and $7.50 students, Seniors and Media Arts Center members. For more information go to the Media Arts Center website .
Companion viewing for The Method: In the Company of Men, The Office (British), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Companion viewing for Family Law: Lost Embrace, Every Stewardess Goes to Heaven -----