The Man Next Door (El hombre de al lado)
The Man Next Door is working it’s magic in the World Dramatic Competition and Sundance. It comes from Argentina, and demands that it be noticed. It’s directed by two promising young men, Mariano Cohn, and Gastón Duprat, who co-wrote the script together as well. And are both credited as the film’s cinematography. Narcissistic much?
The film is overwhelming simple in it’s storyline. An extremely successful designer named Leonardo, lives in a home named Casa Curutchet. The only home that Le Corbusier built in the Americas. Apparently it’s a big deal in Argentina. He lives there with his wife and daughter. They’re awakened one morning to the noise of a sledgehammer, he finds that a neighbor has torn a hole in one of the Modernist icon’s perfect white walls, intending to build a window for the house on the other side. The soundscape created is almost as poignant as Australia’s Noise.
The story has this fantastic way of garnering all your sympathies for the designer and his wife, who are just trying to keep their ideal home environment in tact from a classless, and vulgarly blue collar man. In the beginning, The Man Next Door is a comedy of disproportioned manners between neighbors, but quickly evolves into something more tense, as we’re not really sure what either of the two are capable off. Then, as some point, without you even knowing it, you realize you’re rooting for a family of assholes. Victor, the neighbor, it seems, is mostly sincere, a man that is just requesting a bit of sunlight for his home that is so genrously afforded Leonard’s. Even Victor’s attempts to befriend Leo, is mocked behind his back to his self-important intelligentsia friends. How the whole things shifted with out me even realizing it, is remarkable, and so much fun to experience.
The film almost reads as a love story to the home (it reminded me of The International, a love letter to the Guggenheim, or Gattica, with its sprawling hommages to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright). Cohn and Duprat’s cinematography skills provide some really interesting shots that both showcase the anxiety and alienation felt by their characters, as well as the stunning architecture of the home. When it comes to style, these two have it down pat. This film knows exactly how it wants to look, and pulls it off without a hitch. If the heavy-handed statement on class distinction and prejudice is actually sincere, they should receive a stern finger wagging. But as a mostly fun, and tense comedy with a decently shocking ending, then they score high on all marks.