Monday, February 25, 2013

The Oscars: A Post Mortem, So to Speak

In the aftermath of the Oscars, it’s probably fair to say that, for Chilean director Pablo Larraín, the fate of his best foreign film nominee No could be described by the title of his previous film, Post Mortem, which I watched on streaming video last week (trailer below). Larraín himself had acknowledged that the Austrian feature Amour was the odds-on favorite, but that doesn’t diminish the prestige of being the first Chilean feature to be a nominee.
I’m still waiting to see No, which won’t show in the Bay Area until Friday, but I’m hesitant to endorse Post Mortem which, though it’s drawn praise from some critics, is a slow-moving film that’s not exactly a feel-good story. The grim tale of an apathetic coroner’s aide who finds himself transcribing the autopsies of 1973 coup victims – including that of Salvador Allende himself – does manage to establish the bleak ambiance of post-coup Santiago, however.
Like No, the Norwegian entry Kon-Tiki, with its links to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) also fell before the success of Amour, but Chile did take something home from the Academy. Before the awards, I had never even heard of Chilean-born cinematographer Claudio Miranda, but he won the Oscar for his work on director Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (which also earned Lee the best director award).

Miranda, in fact, appears to have come almost out of nowhere, with a relatively thin resumé – most of his credits are from commercials and music videos, though he did work on well-known films such as Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Biographical info is scarce; according to the Santiago daily El Mercurio, Miranda (born 1965) lived in Valparaíso until the age of one, when his parents moved to the United States. In fact, the contact info on his own website says he does not even speak Spanish. Still, his success and Larraín’s nomination have be morale-builders for Chilean cinema.

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