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Tony Manero (DVD Review)

4 May, 2010 By: Billy Gil

Prebook 5/4/10; Street 6/1/10
Kino Lorber
Box Office $0.02 million
$29.95 DVD
Not rated.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Alfredo Castro.

Tony Manero is a difficult film about a man who impersonates John Travolta’s Tony Manero character from Saturday Night Fever during Pinochet’s rule in Chile.

Raúl Peralta is in his 50s, poor like many others in his country at the time (1978, following a U.S.-backed coup that set forth Pinochet’s draconian regime), and obsessed with being Tony Manero. He and a group of dancers perform regularly at a local bar. But for Peralta, it’s more than just a hobby — it’s his life and means of self-identity, with Peralta trying to learn the lines of the film in broken English at theater screenings.

For Peralta, the chance at getting to mimic his hero moves up a notch when a Tony Manero impersonation contest is announced. The fact that he is a sociopath along the lines of Daniel Day Lewis’s Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood means that he’ll stop at nothing short of theft and murder to get there.

Tony Manero’s sounds and sights are sharp and grimy, aggravating the senses as a viewer, including grisly scenes of violence and sex. But as a piece of filmmaking and subtle indictment of an oppressive government and the grim effects it has on its citizens, the film is slicker than Travolta’s mane.

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