Didn’t our mothers tell us to be careful with the company we keep? As a critic, I’ve stopped myself and wondered what kind of people should one give one’s loyalty? I was talking to someone and asked him if he could find any good points in the system he was criticizing. When he said no, then I wondered if he wasn’t too critical and possibly ethnocentric to give a valid judgment.
Likewise, there was a time when I fell into the company of people whose negativity and sense of superiority was troubling. Did I want to live like them: Not creating anything, but simply tearing down the creations of others and living what seemed to be desolate and lonely lives? I wondered about this again when it seemed that some critics were living vicariously wild lives through the artists they favored while looking in disdain at the art of people who lived productive stable lives.
“El Critico” is an Argentine movie about a movie critic, Victor Téllez (Rafael Spregelburd) who has become so bitterly critical. He’s divorced and his last relationship ended strangely. He understands there is a problem, but we understand it more profoundly than he does. In his mind, he speaks to himself in French instead of Spanish. He knows that he is dying although “the funeral and the rest will probably take another 30-40 years” and he also knows that “movies are suffocating me.”
Contemporary movies are “more vulgar and less original” and this is “the malady of the cinema.”
Victor is a man who has forgotten how to laugh and declares, “I’m against comedy because there’s nothing to discuss.” Victor is being stalked by one of his victims, director Leadro Arce (Ignacio Rogers), who tells him at Victor’s coffee shop haunt, “It took me five years to make; it took you five minutes to destroy it. It’s obvious you didn’t see the film…Give me a call and I’ll explain the movie to you.”
Disgruntled artists are nothing new and an acknowledged occupational hazard of critics yet his editor reminds him that it’s been two decades since he’s given a five-chair rating, the highest possible.
While his young niece Ágatha (Telma Crisanti) tells him that she adores “Jerry Maguire” and we hear the Spanish dubbing of the famous line “You had me at hello,” we soon enough learn what the critic feels is the problem with the rom-com as typified by the 1996 “Jerry Maguire,” the 1988 “Working Girl” and the 1989 “When Harry Met Sally.”
- Cheap sentimentalism and perfect phrases in the right moment (usually at the end).
- A couple with chemistry.
- Casual encounters, forced and ridiculous.
- She comes out of nowhere, magically (“Working Girl”)
- We don’t understand what she sees in him. In real life she would never look at him (“Groundhog Day”)
- The world belongs to them and their romance.
- Add grotesque secondary characters.
- Violins for romantic scenes (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”).
- A disagreement due to a misunderstanding.
- Rain, lots of rain.
- Finally a run. We do not understand why, but they always run.
- A long, cloying kiss.
This is all a set up for the critic’s fall from the intellectual grouchy grace. Viktor will fall in love with a woman who is younger and it will be an unlikely pairing. There will be running, rain and a kiss, but will there be a happy ending?
Writer/director Hernán Guerschuny was a critic before turning to film. The movies was nominated for an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Argentina for three awards and the film one the Kikito Critics Prize in 2014 at the Gramado Film Festival.
If nothing else you can compare Guerschuny’s observations about critics, rom-coms and best kisses.
- “Frankie and Johnny” (1991)
- “Green Card” (1990)
- “Pretty Woman” (1990)
- “Bridget Jones Diary” (2001)
- “When Harry Met Sally” (1989)
Watching “El Critico,” you can discover the malady of the cinema or if “Life is a passage filled with opportunities.” In French and Spanish with English (and Spanish) subtitles.