Official Competition is very obvious in the ways it satirizes the film industry and its pretentious egos. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not funny.
The characters in Official Competition are thin and exaggerated, but they all share the same selfishness. A wealthy businessman (José Luis Gómez) wants to produce a movie to leave behind a legacy, the enigmatic and eccentric auteur he’s chosen to write and direct, Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz), wants to explore more experimental horizons despite the source material, and the duelling leading actors (Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez) think they have the better method behind their craft. None of these motivations actually circle back to an intention to make a good movie for audiences to enjoy.
The insider commentary provided by filmmkers Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat (both co-wrote the screenplay with Andrés Duprat) doesn’t say or do anything that hasn’t already been addressed by other showbiz satires, but the absurd situations that happen during early stages of pre-production are really amusing. Rehearsals include a trust exercise with the actors sitting underneath a boulder, a gross and hilarious make-out session with too many microphones, and an achievement award desecration. The last scenario proves that mean-spirited humour doesn’t always work (especially if the attacks are too random to wrap your head around), but the directorial duo usually finds a way to make the audience laugh during the set-up of each cynical joke.
Though movie goers never catch a glimpse of the finished film, we’re entertained enough with the making-of; a testament to how fascinating it is to watch Cruz, Banderas, and Martínez at work.
Official Competition is now playing at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie