by Audrey Deng
Opening in black-and-white, film critic Victor Tellez announces, in French, that he is dying a death that will last 40 years. The culprit: “maladie du cinema.”
Victor (played by Raphael Spregulburd) is an acerbic film critic of Buenos Aires who thinks in French but speaks in Spanish. He roams the city in search of the “perfect film,” an unattainable goal which he later takes into his own hands.
In the film’s opening scenes, the audience watches Victor sit in theater after theater watching movies—an ironic mirror of the audience. Irony itself becomes a character in “El Critico.” The film is about a film critic who despises cliché and pathetic fallacy, preferring to watch classic black-and-white films over rom-coms. By parodying film and film critics, “El Critico” builds a wall of defense around itself against the film critics watching “El Critico,” the film industry and the very genre of this film, which is decidedly romantic-comedy. Should the critic act like Victor—loathing of rom-com, fan of the classics—the critic would have to admit to being somewhat of a cliché. In a way, this film is like a trap for its critics.
For Victor, who finds infamy in his strict cinematic standards, almost every film review is a bad one. Perhaps it is because Victor’s subplots are all negative (for example, his apartment building is being torn down) which causes the main trajectory of his mood to have negative correlation. But all changes when he meets the free-spirited and mischievous Sofia, played vivaciously by Dolores Fonzi. From there, the couple explores Buenos Aires with fresh eyes. Things get better for Victor, who writes a screenplay which his brother-in-law, a wealthy man who wishes to enrich and fulfill his life with art, accepts. Staying true to the romantic arc, Sofia and Victor then break up—Sofia flies home, leading Victor to run through an airport to stop her. All this seems extremely clichéd, but it is the ending of the film which is most remarkable.
The message of the film may seem bewildering—a film critic who hates platitude but falls into platitude, an intensely Meta plot—but the ending changes the tone of the film. Sofia doesn’t run into Victor’s arms at the airport. She doesn’t stay. Sofia leaves and the boy doesn’t get the girl. The ending of the film took courage and restraint on the director’s part.
“El Critico” is a demonstration of the actors’ and crew’s strengths, tied to a somewhat hackneyed plot. The cinematography of the film was very tasteful; the scenery in “El Critico” was shot beautifully, capturing with glee the liveliness of Buenos Aires. Besides that, visual cues were also very modest: the masterful use of lamps and light as symbolism was subtle, not distracting.
By not falling in the final cliché, “El Critico” succeeds in being a somewhat tiresome but succinct film.
“El Critico” is on Video on Demand.
Audrey Deng is the Entertainment Editor. Contact her at email@example.com.