Last Fall, we were treated to the triumph that was "Argo", a historical political thriller the likes of which we hadn't seen much since the 1970s. About the same time, another historical political thriller from Chile was released in certain foreign markets, after making a splash at the 2012 Cannes film festival. The movie is now finally being released into US theatres, with a DVD release on the horizon as well.
"No" (2012 release from Chile; 115 min.) brings the true story of how the military regime of Pinochet, under pressure from the international community after 15 years of dictatorship, called a referedum in 1988 on whether General Pinochet should stay on for another 6 years. A "yes" vote meant another 6 years, and a "no" vote meant the end of the Pinochet regime. As the movie opens, we are introduced to René Saavedra (played by Gael Garcia Bernal), an advertizing wizzard (we see him presenting a new, US-style, commercial for the "Free" brand of cola). Saavedra is approached by the NO campaign to bring some new ideas to the table. We get to see the actual commercials that were being considered or used by both the YES and NO campaigns, and they are dreadful on both sides. When Saavedra makes his pitch to the NO side (namely, "we need to sell a product that people will want to buy"), the initial reaction of the NO campaign is very negative, even hostile. At that point we are just about half-way into the movie and to tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: first and foremost, writer-director-coproducer Pablo Larraín does an outstanding job in bringing us a good feel for the build-up of the NO campaign (at some point someone exclaims "We need more content! We'll never be able to fill 15 minutes of TV airtime every day!"), and how it all leads up to the frantic last days of the campaign. Second, the movie is shot as if to bring you the late 1980s for real: the movie is shown in a 4:3 ratio (rather than the usual 16:9 widescreen ratio), and is shot as if this is a home movie, with heavily grained images and light contrasts. Third, I read somewhere that the movie was made on a shoe-string budget, proving once again that you don't need a hunder million dollars to make an exciting and engaging movie. The art-house theatre I just saw this at here in Cincinnati was absolutely packed, which is great news indeed. If you are in the mood for a top-notch quality foreign movie, you cannot go wrong with this. "No" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!