Described by Funny Balloons’ Peter Danner as “a powerful drama with the tension of a thriller,” “The Club” comes virtually out of the blue, being shot without media coverage in Larrain’s native Chile: The first thing known about it has been the Berlin Festival’s announcement today that it had scored a main Competition slot.
“The Club” marks Larrain’s follow-up to the Oscar nominated “No,” which starred Gael Garcia Bernal, sparked rave reviews – Variety called it “tense throughout, distinctive” – and won the top Art Cinema Award at Cannes 2012 Directors’ Fortnight.
Having showrun HBO Latin America’s “Profugos,” Larrain is also reported to be attached to direct Universal’s “Scarface” remake.
Shot in Cinemascope, “The Club” turns on four men who live together in a secluded house in a small, seaside town. Each of them has been sent to this place to purge sins from the past. They live according to a strict regime under the watchful eye of a female caretaker, when the fragile stability of their routine is disrupted by the arrival of a fifth man, a newly disgraced companion, bringing with him the past they thought they had left behind.
Lending “The Club” immediate social point, the five men are priests.
“I was raised in Catholic schools. Of the priests I met, some have remained honorable, respectable. Some are in jail or have legal issues. And some are lost. This is about the lost ones,” said Pablo Larrain, adding that “The Club” was about “love, passion, redemption.”
Juan de Dios Larrain produces for Fabula, the Santiago de Chile production house he owns with brother Pablo. Unlike Larrain’s Pinochet-era trilogy – 2008’s “Tony Manero,” 2010’s “Post Mortem,” “No” – “The Club” is “contemporary, not set in a historic context, driven by the narratives of its characters, fast-moving, and highly realist,” he added.
“El Club also suggests how in Chile, and many parts of the world, everybody is not equal before the law, because some are ever brought before it. It’s about how some institutions become social clubs and persecute those who challenge them,” said Juan de Dios Larrain.
Chile’s Guillermo Calderon, a playwright, and writer-film critic Daniel Villalobos penned the original screenplay.
An ensemble piece, “The Club” features distinguished Chilean actors who have already acted in Pablo Larrain movies or Fabula productions: Alfredo Castro, the star of “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem” and a co-star in “No,” Antonia Zegers, the femme lead of “No” and “Post mortem,” Jaime Vadell (“No”), Alejandro Goic (“Gloria”) and Francisco Reyes (“Profugos”).
“’The Club’ confirms Pablo Larrain’s talent, if that is still needed, as an amazing filmmaker. It will become at instant talking point at Berlin,” Danner said.
In a contracting arthouse market, many foreign directors’ films play to diminishing international returns. In contrast, Larrain’s movies have built in box office. With “No,” Larrain became one of Latin America’s few directors to chalk up $1 million-plus box office grosses in multiple foreign territories: Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, “No” grossed $2.3 million in the U.S; Wild Bunch Distribution took it to €1.9 million ($2.5 million) in France.
Funny Balloons has handled all Pablo Larrain’s movies since “Tony Manero.” It has also sold “Gloria,” which won Berlin best actress for Paulina Garcia in 2013 and sold much of the world there, and co-sold Sebastian Silva’s Kristen Wiig co-starrer “Nasty Baby,” another sales hit.