Cannes 2016: La Larga Noche de Francisco Sanctis [The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis]

I covered Cannes Film Festival this year, and I will be posting my reviews here weekly. My pieces are on a website known as The Upcoming and have been published in something called Swipe magazine.

Closing Un Certain Regard for this year’s Cannes is La Larga Noche de Francisco Sanctis, an understated, almost minimalist, short feature written and directed by Argentinian pair Francisco Márquez and Andrea Testa. Clocking in at just over 80 minutes, the film presents a succinct Orwellian narrative of one man’s unexpected and dangerous mission that takes him deep into the witching hour. There are some artful touches, and the silent, noir-like atmosphere produces several strange, tense episodes. But the film is as slight in substance as it is in running time, and the imposing grey palette rarely offers an opportunity for much visual intrigue.

Diego Velázquez stars as the titular Francisco Sanctis, an unassuming hard worker who supports his traditional nuclear family in 1970s Argentina, a country which remains under the rule of military dictatorship. He has no evident political allegiances. In fact, middle-aged Francisco is the archetype of normality, perhaps even banality. His dreams extend to a job promotion; instead he receives a novelty gift box from his employers, despite his continued excellence and efficiency in the workplace. One evening he is given surprising information about two individuals who will “disappear”. Out of character, Francis is compelled to help, and his journey commences across Buenos Aires and into the night.

Velázquez adequately conveys first Francisco’s confusion towards his burden and subsequently his quiet determination to complete the ad hoc obligation. The apparently overriding metaphor of Argentina’s dictatorship is not sharply drawn out, however, and the general effect of the film is muted rather than thought-provoking. The production values are low, with some scenes, particularly those which take place in the car, appearing stagy and amateurish. There is a germ of an interesting idea regarding state authoritarianism and political repression, but this minor effort cannot quite locate its significance nor satisfyingly portray its consequences.