Conxita Casanovas discusses “Official Competition”, a film produced by The Mediapro Studio, directed by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat starring Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martínez, recently returned from its international premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
With the Volpi still neatly tucked under her arm from Venice, we witness Penelope Cruz in an unusual role, disheveled and turning herself inside-out, “Official Competition” takes us behind the green rooms and inside the private world of actors and directors. The film is an open window to the entrails of a profession which the general public doesn’t even know the half of. With the characteristic irony of the duo formed by Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn and with an Andrés Duprat script, we learn what several egos unleashed in battle are capable of. Joaquín Oristrell did it in “No Shame”, only in a kinder fashion and now, the Argentines who seduced us with “The Distinguished Citizen”, are going all-out here, but with that hallmark affectionate humor and irony that affords them license to kill.
Would they have offered the project to Darín? Only Luis San Narciso, casting director extraordinaire, knows. In any case, the directors have once again commissioned the services of Oscar Martínez, pitting him against the wiles of one Antonio Banderas, intense thespian who lives up to the fame of Argentine actors and the playboy having sired several children with several different women, a prime-grade narcissist. How did they convince him to play with his own image? Let’s not forget that in his early days in Hollywood, Banderas played the Latin lover who had them all swooning. One also wonders if Penelope Cruz, who cracks me up in that wig, took her inspiration for constructing the character from a well-known director or did she simply pull this out of a (her) hat. OK, of course I know that any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental and that’s the story I’m sticking to.
Almost without uttering a word and delivering a masterclass in corporal expression, Irene Escolar joins the show, and then we’re left gobsmacked, short of attributes to praise the work of the great José Luis Gómez in the role of arts patron hell-bent on leaving his mark with a movie. Now that I mention it, there is something from Mankiewicz’s “Sleuth” in the final outcome, not to mention a nod to that untimely awakening we experienced with Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, reminding us that time heals all, putting everything in its place.
A special mention goes out for the film’s spectacular production design, the soundtrack of which brings Chopin, Satie and Beethoven back from the grave.
Quoting directly from the biting dialogue, “art was created to make us uncomfortable, to provoke, to annoy”, and our dear friends here take that to the letter. “Official Competition” is a surprising comedy, to laugh meanwhile we’re reminded how, at least in tinsel-town, all that glitters is not gold.