VIFF 2021 Review: Official Competition

Written by Taylor Baker

82/100

Co-Directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat craft a meta-fictional criticism of art, wealth, and awards. Official Competition begins with José Luis Gómez’s Humberto Suarez, a lavishly wealthy man nearing the end of his life and wanting to create a legacy. Not out of sincerity, but rather because people don’t think of him how he wants them to. He considers erecting a bridge, and humbly naming it the Humberto Suarez bridge. He also realizes he could make a film, the best film, with the best actors, and the best director. Thus Official Competition, a film commissioned by an old wealthy man to control the conversation of his legacy begins.

Infrequent Director Lola Cuevas is brought in. She wants to make a film based on a book called “Rivalry”, which costs Suarez an enormous amount of money. He hasn’t read the book and demands that she explain it to him which is the start of a running gag of his being out of place whenever he’s near the artists whom he commissioned for his vanity project. Lola is a critical darling, and Cruz presents her as a hilariously ludicrous caricature of many of cinema’s most capricious and self-absorbed directors. 

Worldwide superstar Antonio Banderas plays worldwide superstar Félix Rivero and believes that one should have no interiority when acting and simply bring the character to life as best he can in direct response to the instruction of the director. Under-known and under-appreciated Argentinian actor Oscar Martínez plays the opposing brother within the film being made, Iván Torres. He believes in interiority and embodying the character getting in their headspace and the practice of staying in character during the scene. Crying sincerely rather than applying menthol to induce tears as Banderas’ Rivero does.

All three together form a sort of an odd couple. The serious bits of drama and process develop into gags and show-stealing bits of comedy. Whether it’s both actors forced to recite their lines under a rock hoisted up by a crane or a test kiss sound session where both men are laughed out of their test and Cruz shows them the right way to kiss a woman and she ends up on the floor pressed against the actress, who happens to be Suarez the film producers daughter. Which causes him to stumble out uncomfortably. The film in many ways becomes the very text that the filmmakers within it are attempting to create. Playing subversively with various notions and expectations of the audience, both overtly with the roles of the actors playing actors in the film and more delicately with Cruz’s arc as director. Her character leads along the events and delivers heights and lows that neither actor does. Official Competition balances style and performance against a self-aware if reflexive criticism of the process of creating behemoth films all while being fun and rewarding to watch.

Official Competition Trailer

Official Competition was screened as part of the 2021 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

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The Weasel’s Tale

Written by Taylor Baker

78/100

After waiting more than a year for The Weasel’s Tale to become available in the U.S. it’s safe to say I had expectations that bordered on unfair. The mystery drama Campanella takes us on seems familiar. The luxuriant digital cinematography, the violence indicated by an early chicken coop scene, an award placed in the center of an entry way, the title itself, and a Sunset Boulevard-esque aging star. These ideas each feel familiar and when the grift begins the genre is cemented as an Agatha Christie type mystery. Thus redistributing some early expectations and allowing the viewer a great deal of question marks in what may happen. Even though we know the rules of this particular cinematic game.

The Weasel’s Tale doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or compel a viewer more than recent murder mystery Knives Out might. It does feel original and sincere, though there are limitations to that in such a tread genre. Campanella after all is an aging artist, telling a personal story in a genre he knows all too well. Just with a spin and some flair on it. While watching I was delighted to see Borges’ performance. Akin to an apex predator playing with her meal before the kill. That’s something I’ve always loved from female lead performances in particular. Elegance with menace, innocence with tenacity, victim-hood with total control. To ensure I give nothing away, I’ll leave it at that.

Recommended.

The Weasel’s Tale Trailer

The Weasel’s Tale is currently available to watch thru select Virtual Cinema Venues