by Jason Coffman
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Not all that long ago— hell, probably even now for some people— the phrase “foreign film” was associated with dour, miserable, impeccably shot dramas that only played in weird “art” theaters. Fortunately, with the accessibility offered by online video stores such as Netflix, Facets, and Greencine, it’s now much easier to see films from any country in the world than it was when the only option was the tiny “Foreign” section at Blockbuster. Now those people who would never have given a “foreign film” a chance can find the gems among the pretentious dross.
One such gem is Gigante, a film from Uruguay. I’ll plead guilty to knowing absolutely nothing about Uruguayan cinema, but that background certainly isn’t necessary to enjoy this low-key charmer.
Jara (Horacio Camandule) works the overnight shift manning the security cameras at a grocery store. Most of the time his job involves watching the cleaning crew mopping the floors, picking up displays they knock over, and sneaking small food items out with them at the end of the night. His job becomes more interesting when new cleaner Julia (Leonor Svarcas) starts. Jara finds himself drawn to Julia, first watching her intently on the security cameras and then following her around.
Considering the subject matter, Gigante could easily have become very dark and uncomfortable, but writer/director Adrián Biniez keeps the mood light. Jara’s a big, imposing guy, but he’s clearly not dangerous. He’s obsessed with heavy metal music and likes action movies, but what he’s really looking for is simple companionship. Julia is a mystery throughout the film, appearing almost exclusively in long shots until much later in the film, but Jara’s slow discovery of information about her is a big part of the film’s charm.
Gigante is a unique, endearing film that deserves a look. It’s funny, sweet, and just might serve as a good introduction to Uruguayan cinema. What more could you ask for?
Gigante was released to retail by Film Movement on 9 March 2010. To learn more about the film and Film Movement’s DVD of the Month club, visit their web site.
Jason Coffman is a film critic living in Chicago.
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