Tony Manero (Chile)
EmptyWriter-director Pablo Larrain's searing film follows a sad-sack dancer-turned-murderer who chases a dream of emulating his "Saturday Night Fever" hero during the repressive Pinochet regime.
Chile went through this extraordinary cultural process. For many years, artistic expression was blocked. For 18 years, we lost the chance of developing as a society. There's a damage that will never be absolutely rebuilt. We wanted to talk about that -- we're just beginning to understand it.
We wanted to tell this little story about a man and an American icon, with the idea of setting up a metaphor about the Chilean regime and the absurdity of importing the American dream.
I saw "Saturday Night Fever" probably in 1988, and I felt that it had something very original. When you have a character who is dancing onscreen, it makes a particular connection with the audience. It's a unique way of building empathy. Tony Manero doesn't want to make money, he just wants to dance.
And the lead in my film, he feels good when he dances -- he thinks Tony Manero is possible for him. But he's 30 years older and his reality is way, way different. There's an absurdity to it. Like in "Saturday Night Fever," nothing else works in his life, nothing but the dancing. But in (my character's) case, in the end, not even that works.
We sent John Travolta the film and I think he liked it, because he wrote me a letter back saying he was very glad about our success at Cannes. He was kind enough to let us have permission to use his image. He's so great. Some actors, they are just faces. But Travolta is a voice and an entire person who speaks with his entire body.