This is what a good film festival is all about. About 100 of us were treated to the U.S. premiere of Lo Más Importante de la Vida es No Haber Muerto, a great first feature from a trio of young directors (Olivier Pictet, Pablo Martin Torrado and Marc Recuenco) who have worked on shorter projects in their nine years since film school in Barcelona. It’s a mix of classic Buñuel surrealism, Ricky Gervais comedy and Eternal Sunshine impressionism.
The story is of Jacobo (played marvelously by Spanish star Emilio Gutiérrez Caba) a third-generation piano tuner who, in his senior years, questions the mystical and existential aspects of his own life when he admits to his doctor that most of the pianos seem to have been tuning themselves. (Imagine catching a glimpse of Santa Claus in your living room. Was it real or were you dreaming?) Okay, so that doesn’t give you a clue what this movie is really all about. But this is one of the most original and creative scripts to appear in the past few years. Producer Saskia Vischer, who was at the screening along with the three directors and editor Jordi J.Recort, deserves a lot of the credit for helping the script make it to the screen pretty much as originally envisioned.
The film is beautifully shot, 95% in film-noir B&W and much in an angular Buñuel style. The original score, mostly of solo cello, piano and occasional string quartet is excellent. The opening animated title sequence, while gorgeous, is self-indulgently long and inappropriate for the body of the film. Cessna thought it was a bit long, but I think 17 films (so far) in 10 days may be catching up with her. This isn’t a mainstream movie. It’s definitely for foreign-language film buffs, but if that’s you, keep an eye out for this one. I don’t think it has distribution outside of one or two EU countries yet.
And for once, this trailer does give a reasonably accurate portrayal of the film itself.