“I’m trapped in a genre I don’t belong in.” So says Victor Tellez, the titular character in Hernán Gerschuny’s witty and winning movie, The Film Critic. Victor is Argentinian but he thinks in French. Why? Because his native tongue is less refined. In a voiceover he explains that he is suffering through la maladie du cinéma. His editor at the local newspaper calls him a “terrorist of taste” because Victor has not written a five star review in two decades.
The world Victor inhabits will be belly-achingly familiar to cinephiles. His social circle consists of three other critics, all poorly dressed and awkward in their way. The most slovenly of the group is decked out in promotional swag because frankly, he probably wouldn’t be able to clothe himself otherwise. He passes around beat-up disks of obscure features he’s downloaded that “everyone needs to see”. The group meets weekly in a basement theatre for press screenings before retiring to a cafe to pick apart every failing of the day’s films.
Victor routinely tears apart the predictable conventions of romantic comedies, rattling off a list of clichés that make films like Love Actually and When Harry Met Sally indistinguishable and unconscionable. He thinks that this type of love poisons cinema and that this type of cinema poisons love. And yet later we see him trying to reenact a scene from Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, an example of superior cinema, in an attempt to woo a woman. Suffice to say, it doesn’t work. But what happens when Victor ‘s heart is possessed by feelings that overpower the misanthropic thoughts in his head?
The Film Critic dances along a tightrope of winking textual analysis, something that would be excruciating in less skilled and less honest hands. It is an intelligent, hilarious film that wholeheartedly embraces its contradictions. The movie is about a serious man which never takes itself too seriously. Victor is pathetic and pedantic in his way but he’s also our hero. His published opinions might ruin careers but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Not all acts of creation are inherently good. Terrible people exist so that we can find greater joys in the best ones. The same goes for movies.
(The Film Critic plays June 12-18 at The Grand Illusion Cinema)