Critical, radical masterpiece of the Chilean diaspora
Magisterial, droll low-budget work is the first film Ruiz made in France after fleeing the Pinochet dictatorship - and also the first feature film of the Chilean diaspora. Many in the Chilean exile community rejected the film for its allegedly 'light' handling of heavy subject matter (reactionary race/gender/class attitudes, party-political fundamentalism, torpor and corruption among the exiles); it has a comparable bite and feel to Ousmane Sembène's great political satire XALA (also 1975). Wonderful performances from non-actor exiles abound (particularly impressive as most takes last several minutes) but the standout is Sergio Hernández (who went on to play the lead in Ruiz's final feature, NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET, 2012) as the singer kidnapped by the exiles. Ruiz cited Mizoguchi as an inspiration for his play with spatial uncertainty in Parisian apartments, though anyone familiar with Godard's 2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER... (1967) will notice another master's Brechtian influence. Stylistically the film's rough edges recall Ruiz's NADIE DIJO NADA (1971) and PALOMITA BLANCA (1973) more than the elegant work he went on to craft in France and Portugal over the following decade.