The Argentine trio Mariano Cohn and the brothers Gaston and Andres Duprat presented themselves in the competition program of the Venice Film Festival as another exceptional and brilliantly thought-out social satire. After touching the world of literature in the extraordinary “Honorary Citizen” in which the Nobel Prize winner returns to his hometown after forty years, and still weaker, but still good “My Masterpiece” painting, they are now dealing with the world of film. It offers “Competencia Oficial” or “Official Competition” and a rather ironic view of the world of film art and art in general, and the well-hit Croatian translation of the film, which reads “Ego against ego”, brilliantly conveys what it’s all about. The rich businessman has just celebrated his 80th birthday and he is aware that he has amassed a fine fortune during his life, but no one respects him, and everyone feels contempt for him.
To leave something to the world, he decided to invest as much money as he needed in a film that would be the best ever. He immediately bought the rights to the Nobel Prize-winning book (of course he never read it), and he decided to hire the best film crew, namely the eccentric director Lola Cuevas (Penelope Cruz with lush curls on her head and under her armpits). She is an artist who wants to control the whole process and make films for festivals, so she wrote the screenplay based on the book, and she decided to hire two of the best actors in the country for the roles of brothers. Ivan (Oscar Martinez who was brilliant in “Honorary Citizen”) is a spirited intellectual, a somewhat snobbish elitist who makes exclusively art films that almost no one watches, but is respected in art circles and despises the film industry as completely superficial and false.
Felix (Antonio Banderas) is Ivan’s complete opposite. A big star who appears in action spectacles and blockbusters, a spoiled superstar who seems to subconsciously feel that he is a fraud and not an artist and sees this role as an opportunity to prove himself in that sense. Ivan and Felix can’t be more different, and that’s exactly what Lola was looking for, but right from the first rehearsals it will become clear that such two egomaniacs will find it very difficult to work together. Every moment will turn into a competition between them and an attempt to prove who is better and bigger and whose approach is more correct, and Lola seems to further provoke them to fly out of their comfort zone. Although both characters are actually completely stereotypical and caricatures of what we think of when it comes to such two actors, again this Argentine trio has come up with an exceptional concept, an ambitious and finely thought-out humorous drama that thematically thematizes the art world.
It was an “Official Competition” and a film in which they managed to bring together even the most famous cast so far, and Martinez and Banderas are extraordinary because they both seem to be teasing at the expense of themselves and their appearances. While Martinez is in reality an Argentine actor who mostly doesn’t perform outside of his country, Banderas is probably the biggest star the Spanish film has ever had. Obviously, they both more than enjoy their roles and caricature of themselves, outwitting and outplaying which is also very well orchestrated by Penelope Cruz. It is a film that seems to raise the question of what makes a film good and whether the artistic flair and authorial approach can be reconciled with the megalomania and speed required by today’s film industry.
Cohn and the Duprat brothers nicely wrapped an extremely serious and interesting topic in seemingly frivolous cellophane and seemed to ask if making a film was anything other than creating deception. And while Ivan is trying to find some depth in everything, to penetrate his character and make him act as alive as possible, Felix would just do it all as soon as possible, without much preparation, so he threw himself into the next project. And best of all, even though they seem to be completely different, it quickly becomes clear to us that they are both incredibly selfish, arrogant and spoiled guys who think they’ve picked up all the wits of the world. Although it is obvious that they feel contempt for each other, even open disgust, it is to be guessed that rivalry and even undisguised enmity between them will develop because subconsciously they seem to envy each other. Ivan to Felix for the fame and adoration of the audience, and Felix to Ivan for the critical approval and status he has in artistic circles.