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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

Venice #80 - El Conde

It got me since the first poster was released a year ago - since I saw the pale silhouette of Augusto Pinochet looking down over a dark background, engulfed in his long, firm and wrinkle-free cloak. And when I finally got the chance to watch Pablo Larraín’s latest effort with the highest expectations, I stared in awe at the greatest satire I’ve ever seen - a film that, even without its political background, is an irresistible dark comedy.

Nicknamed "El Conde", Pinochet is introduced as French vampire Claud Pinoche, whose rise to power goes as far back as the days of the French Revolution. After dishonourable military successes in Chile, he fakes his historical death in 2006 to conduct a more quiet, private existence - and to escape legal allegations. But his earthly existence is not over, and stumbling around with a walking frame, he sips on frozen human hearts. His castle? A decrepit villa by the sea.

Struck with an existential dilemma after the disappointing downfall of his historical reputation, he courts death and wishes to finally rest, but his greedy wife Lucía keeps him alive by adding blood to his meals. When their five good-for-nothing bloodsucking children visit him, their only concern being their long-due inheritance, they bring an accountant along to clear up the several secret bank accounts dispersed around the globe. She happens to be a tempting nun in disguise who, while trying to exorcise the ex-dictator, also awakens in him a new thirst for life- and blood. And so, flying over the night skies of Santiago, Pinochet casts a terrifying shadow that still looms over Chile.

With a surprising and hilarious political crossover, the Chilean director digs his teeth in the arteries of his country, delivering his funniest and most inventive film to date.


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