Review: ‘The Man Next Door’

Tale of neighbors feuding over a newly constructed window between them isn't enough to redeem pic.

A twist ending to the tale of La Plata neighbors feuding over the newly constructed window between them isn’t enough to redeem the tedium of “The Man Next Door.” Lensed by its co-directors, the Argentine pic merits its recent cinematography award at Sundance, if only for the ingenious split-screen image of a sledgehammer hitting one neighbor’s side of a wall and slowly coming out the other. Alas, the filmmakers can’t penetrate the barrier between the viewer and his sympathies, as the movie remains narratively and thematically underdeveloped. “Man Next Door” seems unlikely to take up long-term residence outside Latin America.

An imposing man with a bald head and a 50-yard stare, used car salesman Victor (Daniel Araoz) builds a large window that faces directly into the modish home of Leonardo (Rafael Spregelburd), an industrial designer and full-time prig. A mild degree of deadpan humor develops as Victor refuses to take his neighbor’s increasing prickliness into consideration. Concerned, like many Argentine film exports, with class privilege, “Next Door” reads immediately and perpetually as a critique of the bourgeois desire for privacy and control. Ironically, the film’s look is exceptionally clean.

The Man Next Door

Argentina

Production

An Aleph Media production, in association with Cinema Uno, Television Abierta, Felei Cooperativa, with support of Incaa. Produced by Fernando Sokolowicz. Executive producer, Maria Belen de la Torre. Directed by Mariano Cohn, Gaston Duprat. Screenplay, Duprat.

Crew

Camera (color), Cohn, Duprat; editor, Jeronimo Carranza; music, Sergio Pangaro; art director, Lorena Llaneza; costume designer, Llaneza. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema -- competing), Jan. 25, 2010. Original title: El hombre de al lado. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Rafael Spregelburd, Daniel Araoz, Eugenia Alonso, Ines Budassi, Loren Acuna, Ruben Guzman, Debora Zanolli, Eugenio Scopel, Barbara Hang, Erique Gagliesi.

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