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Paranoids, The
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by Mel Valentin

"An insightfully refreshing slacker comedy-drama."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 52ND SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Paranoids" ("Los paranoicos"), Argentinean filmmaker Gabriel Medina’s feature-film debut, is a tragicomedy of errors centered on a late twenty-nothing and his meandering struggle to finish a screenplay (all that’s missing, apparently, is the ending) and enter the rarefied world of film production. Crafted with wry, often deadpan humor and a sympathetic, unironic appreciation of that twilight period between the freedom and non-responsibility of college and the myriad compromises and constricting responsibilities of adulthood. If "The Paranoids" is any indication of Medina’s talents, then he’s a filmmaker to watch.

In his late twenties, Luciano Gauna (Daniel Hendler), a wannabe screenwriter (and disappointed romantic), ekes out a living working at children’s parties dressed as a famous cartoon character, Cachito, with one of his best friends, Martin Sherman (Martín Feldman). He owes his apartment to a film school friend, Manuel Sinovieck (Walter Jakob). Manuel is everything Luciano isn’t: he’s decisive, assertive, self-assured, and personally and professionally successful. His television program, “The Paranoids,” has aired successfully on Spanish TV. Manuel has returned to Buenos Aires to develop a Latin American version of his hit show. Manuel is also in semi-serious relationship with Sofia (Jazmín Stuart).

While Luciano meanders through anti-depressant-filled days, seemingly incapable of finishing his screenplay, Martin recovers in a hospital from throat surgery, surgery due to Luciano’s negligence. Apparently jobless and dependent on Manuel, Sofia lives with Manuel’s parents while he’s away on business. After an argument, however, with Manuel’s parents, Sofia moves in with Luciano who, in turn, doesn’t know what to make of her or the situation he’s found himself in. Torn between loyalty toward Manuel and his growing desire for Sofia, Luciano is finally forced to make a (potentially) life-changing decision.

In Luciano, Medina has found a conduit for the fears, anxieties, concerns, preoccupations, and neuroses of the marginally middle-class. He aspires for more than he has, but lacks the self-confidence, the passion, and, possibly, the talent to achieve his dreams. Luciano stumbles and mumbles his way through socially awkward situations, holding on to his dream of creating a work of art (as opposed to a commercial work). In Manuel, Medina has found the perfect foil for Luciano. He’s not a villain, but he’s Luciano’s antagonist. In ostensibly trying to help Luciano, he might be holding Luciano back. He’s self-centered, but he isn’t self-aware, at least not when it comes to the verbal putdowns he slings Luciano’s way, both to assert his alpha male authority and to spur Luciano to assert himself.

Despite the title, a reference both to Manuel’s television series and, possibly, "The Crying of Lot 49" by Thomas Pynchon, "The Paranoids" isn’t dour, dire, or depressing (far from it, actually). Medina finds an overabundant source of humor in Luciano’s inadequacies and his torturous stumble toward self-knowledge. Medina also gets playfully self-referential by having one character “dream” of his real name, which happens to be the actor’s name. He also includes his own name as an option for a character in the boxing videogame Luciano and Manuel play late in the film.

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originally posted: 05/12/09 08:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 12-Apr-2011



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