The biggest B.O. success in Chilean film history, with more than a million admissions since its 2000 release, tyro helmer Cristian Galaz’s “The Sentimental Teaser” is a fresh, entertainingly quirky three-parter across a range of moods, its sections loosely unified by their relationship to the title (slang for the penis). Each section is solid enough to suggest Galaz could handle a regular feature with no problems. Pic has won multiple awards at small fests, but its theatrical success has not been repeated in Spain, where distribution has been limited. Continuing fest runs look likeliest.
Script is built on true stories told to a popular Chilean phone-in radio show presented by El Rumpy. Character plays himself, linking the three sections from his studio, and it was his participation in the project that ensured pic’s domestic success.
First section, the weakest, is the farcical tale of a student who impersonates John Lennon, Juan (Daniel Munoz), and his sexy-but-married neighbor, Claudia (Lorene Prieto). The plot offers nothing new, but there is plenty of spiky observation and a neat final twist.
Second seg generates a striking juxtaposition with a laugh-free little drama in which the mature Carmen (Ximenas Rivas) revisits her childhood habit of spying on her family, particularly on sister Alicia (Patricia Rivadeneira), from inside a cupboard. In doing so, Carmen unlocks some appalling secrets behind their claustrophobic middle-class family life. Intense, with the odd genuinely grueling moment, pic is told with skillful ellipses, the odd neat metaphor and a welcome lack of sensationalism. Cleverly, it flashes back in B&W to the girls’ childhood, retracing the roots of the family’s troubles through almost exclusively dialogue-free images.
Pic concludes with an engaging social drama in a Santiago neighborhood where the sexual relationship of good-hearted mechanic Johnny (Pablo Montoya) and wife Mia (well-known Chilean thesp Tamara Acosta) is suffering because cheap housing and overcrowding mean they have no privacy. After squeezing some humor from the situation, the script turns serious, developing into a take on how the state interferes with people’s most intimate liberties.
All three segs are characterized by taut scripting, lively perfs and a superior eye for detail. Only major complaint is the cheesy pop score in the first and third sections.