Monday, September 29, 2014

LFF short review: Álvaro Brechner's Uruguayan dramedy Mr. Kaplan

Growing old isn’t easy, especially if you have regrets. Since fleeing from the Nazis as a child, the now 76-year-old Jew Jacop Kaplan (Héctor Noguera) has made a decent life for himself in Uruguay. He is lives in a decent Montevideo apartment and is surrounded by a loving family, yet he feels that something is missing: he wants to make a lasting impression, he wants a legacy. After a brief identity crisis at a wedding, he launches himself head over heels into the investigation of an elderly German immigrant, whom he believes to be a war criminal.

What ensues is essentially Nebraska, with a Nazi in the place of a million dollars. We witness the clumsy efforts of Jacob and his chauffeur/friend/accomplice Wilson (Néstor Guzzini) to assemble incriminating evidence with a mixture of pity and bemusement. Director Álvaro Brechner deals with the themes of coming to terms with mortality and the futility of human existence in a somewhat ordinary way, but he tells this story with a lightness of touch, which makes for an enjoyable, diverting viewing experience. The visuals are quite restrained, but there is a wonderful standoff in the vein of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Mr. Kaplan is the best (and admittedly only) Uruguayan film I have ever seen.

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