Friday, December 4, 2009

Slices of Life

Written & Directed by Adrián Biniez
With Horacio Camandule & Leonor Svarcas

The nominal hero of Gigantethe introverted, exceptionally large late-night supermarket security guard Jara—is treated by writer-director Adrián Biniez with compassion, which lessens the initial “ick” factor of the man’s obsession. The object of Jara’s fixation is Julia, a young woman who cleans the supermarket after it closes. At first, Jara only sees her on the close-circuit security cameras, watching as she mops floors. Jara never drools or slobbers or makes untoward overtures; he is content with just watching her, essentially spying—he chuckles to himself when she inadvertently knocks over a display of paper towels and silently watches as she and another male employee flirt with each other. He never reacts like one of those crazy loners we’ve seen before. Instead, he simply falls in love, an emotion he hasn’t experienced before.

Gigante works because Biniez depicts Jara without condescension. His straightforward technique and offhand insights are coupled with a persuasive performance by Horacio Camandule that keeps viewers on Jara’s side, even when he begins tailing Julia outside of work, even going so far as to sit a few tables from her and her blind date at a local restaurant.

Biniez also displays the indispensible humor of Jara’s situation in an extended sequence after Jara, who trails Julia’s date after she goes home in a taxi, intervenes when the poor guy is about to get mugged. The men bond for awhile. They sit together at the same restaurant, and Jara very discreetly extracts pertinent information about Julia, including her preference for heavy-metal music. When the man excuses himself to go to the bathroom, Jara gets up and leaves; he doesn’t feel threatened by him any more. Jara—whom we’ve seen wearing heavy-metal T-shirts earlier—now becomes fixated with Julia’s liking the same music he likes, and he starts blasting hard rock while showering and working out, obviously thinking of her.

Gigante is very low-key—it never insists we love (or loathe) Jara. But Biniez slightly missteps with an open-ended, semi-happy ending, a two-minute long take of Jara and Julia finally meeting at her usual spot on the beach. But Biniez is also smart enough not to provide too many details, as his short, 85-minute film has recounted the prelude to a possible relationship.

Alongside Camandule’s commanding work is the equally strong acting of Leonor Svarcas as Maria, whom we see almost exclusively through Jara’s eyes—for the first half of the movie she’s mainly shown on the small black-and-white security monitors—but Svarcas fashions a sympathetic character out of those small fragments, and we also understand Jara’s fascination.

That Biniez never tips his hand might seem frustrating at first, as Jara never succumbs to the clichéd “loner” mentality that might have ruined this perceptive character study. Indeed, the movie’s biggest false note comes when Jara loses his cool at the store and knocks down everything in his path. Otherwise, Gigante is, like its perfectly ordinary hero, a gentle surprise.
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