The Man Next Door -- Film Review



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PARK CITY -- A dry Argentine comedy with a subversive streak and style to burn, "The Man Next Door" moves in unexpected directions while remaining viewer-friendly, and should get a very good reception on the arthouse circuit.

The movie's sympathies originally seem to lie with Leonardo, a very successful designer who lives in pristine Casa Curutchet, a Buenos Aires landmark that's the only house Le Corbusier built in the Americas. Awakened one morning to the noise of a sledgehammer, he finds that a neighbor has torn a hole in one of the Modernist icon's perfect white walls, intending to build a window for the house on the other side.

The film continues from Leonardo's point of view, viewing the neighbor Victor's vulgar lifestyle through the crisp, unadorned lines of Le Corbusier's house and listening as the construction racket disturbs the yoga practice of Leonardo's wife. Negotiations between the two men begin as a comedy of mismatched manners, but the situation grows edgier as the unresolved dispute strains the designer's marriage and interrupts his work.

Deliciously, the filmmakers gradually nudge us toward the opinion that Victor, this classless man who won't take "no" for an answer, is actually the story's hero: His efforts to befriend Leonardo are rebuffed with transparent dishonesty, even mocked behind Victor's back -- and after all, the man simply thinks his home should have a bit of the sunlight Le Corbusier so generously afforded his own structure.

The movie's growing sense of class-consciousness is comic, but quietly so, and allows for odd little grace notes like the humble finger-puppet shows Victor stages in his new window for the amusement of Leonardo's teenage daughter. Co-directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat half-mask their sympathies, letting two perfectly cast actors slowly reveal what each character is made of: While Rafael Spregelburd, as Leonardo, has a longer emotional arc to traverse, his opponent Daniel Araoz steals the film -- without ever even managing to get his neighbor, or the camera, in his front door.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production companies: Aleph Media
Cast: Rafael Spregelburd, Daniel Araoz, Eugenia Alonso, Ines Budassi, Lorenza Acuna, Eugenio Scopel
Directors: Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat
Screenwriter: Andres Duprat
Executive producer: Maria Belen de la Torre
Producer: Fernando Sokolowicz
Director of photography: Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat
Production designer: Lorena Llaneza
Music: Sergio Pangaro
Costume designer: Lorena Llaneza
Editor: Jeronimo Carranza
Sales Agent: Andrew Herwitz, Film Sales Corporation
No MPAA rating, 101 minutes