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Yes Or No?

Friday 14 June 2013, 12:59

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The excellent political drama No starring Gael Garcia Bernal is out on DVD this Monday. It uses antiquated video cameras to capture the spirit of the time but does the medium suit the message?

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Gael Garcia Bernal interviewed by Simon Mayo


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    Comment number 5.

    A very general question to which the answer must be 'It depends'. Subject matter, period, narrative, and director are all important variables. It doesn't always work, but it can - and it can make a huge difference. I remember taking a 'phone call from Woody Allen when I was managing a cinema, here in the UK. I thought it was a wind-up but he was phoning round to ensure that Zelig was being shown in the proper ratio (he had filmed it in a ratio contemporary with the period in which the film was set). I passed him on to the Chief Projectionist and they discussed the matter. Did it look odd? Yes, at first. It did, however, make a huge difference to the viewing experience. A forgotten gem that would not be out of place in your film club.

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    Comment number 1.

    I saw this on theatrical release and I admit that the visual format took a while to get used to, especially on the big screen. So garish and unpleasant to look at when projected so big! But absolutely it worked in integrating the archive footage and - most importantly - the advertising into the drama. The jump from pristine widescreen to 80s-vision would have been too jarring otherwise and completely taken you out of the film.

    On DVD, I think the stylistic choice will be even less of an issue due to the smaller size of the screen.

    As for the film itself, I highly recommend it. Despite the fact that Gael Garcia Bernal looks like a more handsome Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with his beard, he's a great lead and the supporting cast are great too. And there's a recurring mime gag, so bonus points.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I thoroughly enjoyed Pablo Larrain's earlier film Tony Manero, a very black comedy/social drama about a Chilean Travolta impersonator set in the Pinochet era, so I'm looking forward to this one. I have no problem with the U-Matic video style, nor with subtitles in general. My only gripe is yellow-coloured subtitles: on that my vote is a resounding No!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    'No' is my favourite film of the year so far. Before I went to see it in the cinema I was aware of the aspect ratio that it was shot in, but a few of the people seated around me weren't, judging by some puzzlement when the title sequence began. Although I do think it was deliberate on the film-makers' part that some of the subtitles crossed over the 4:3 'box' to show that the projection was correct!

    The choice to shoot it on boxy video was really inspired, it immersed you in the period setting immediately. It was as if you were watching a dramatisation from Chilean TV just a year after the events took place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I don't think I'd go to the cinema for this experience, though on dvd I should think it could be a very fascinating film to watch; but not blown-up on the big screen: Not for me. Having recently watched a few clips of eg "Great Matches of the 80: Ipswitch Town vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final" or something, it's easy to forget how very poor the footage was; and really hard-work to go back to watching by comparison to today's crisp footage.


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