Sunday, December 6, 2009

Adrián Biniez's GIGANTE (2009)

There is something patronizing about the categorical term “festival film”—it immediately pigeonholes the film as one with very limited audience appeal. Festival films are usually from countries with little or no film industry and they are almost always slow moving character driven dramas. In other words, a “festival film” is the antithesis of a “Hollywood film,” and that's not such a bad thing. Gigante, a small film from Uruguay, is just such a film. It is as unsurprising as it is charming, and will never find a fair playing field in a world where blockbusters, no matter how bad they are, rule. But just imagine if, for every two big budget blockbuster, there was one international indie in your local Cineplex. In my perfect world it wouldn’t be either or; in my perfect world a film like Gigante would play right next to 2012. Together both of these films would seem fresh, but tossed in a box with their own breed they lose their individuality. Argentinean director Adrián Biniez is resolute in giving Gigante individuality through subtlety and sensitivity in an otherwise predictable film.

Jara is a universal stereotype of a misunderstood gentle giant—far smarter and kinder than he looks. He works the nightshift as a security guard in a large supermarket. He is uninterested in the nominal pastimes of his co-workers, preferring to keep to himself with a book or a crossword puzzle. As if subconsciously aware that his mundane life threatens to suffocate him, Jara takes note of a cleaning woman working at the supermarket. His interest turns to obsession as watches her on the closed-circuit security cameras and eventually starts following her outside of work. Her unique hobbies—karate, horror films, heavy metal—fascinate Jara, but the one-sided relationship teeters on the edge of possessive, unhealthy and, yes, a little creepy. Once his jealousy takes hold, Jara becomes a man that even he does not recognize.

Mountains will not be moved by this film, but its humanistic foundation should not be underestimated. Jara, thoughtfully played by Horacio Camandule, is a sympathetic anti-hero that we identify with immediately. Shot entirely from his perspective, Gigante forces us to walk in his shoes. The object of his obsession, Julia, is as much a mystery to us as she is to him. Although the film is slow paced, it is also very short. When things start to go awry, it is thankfully not drawn out into melodramatic overkill or nauseating fairytale. The simplistic moral to the story: if there is someone you like, don't fret, just say ‘hi.’

(This review was originally publish on In Review Online. Gigante opened in NYC a couple weeks ago and is available through Film Movement.)

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