Film-Forward Review: [EL LEYTON]

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Leyton (left) and the newlyweds Modesto & Marta

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Directed by: Gonzalo Justiniano.
Produced by: Carlo Bettin.
Written by: Fernando Aragón & Gonzalo Justiniano, based on the novel La Red by Luis Alberto Acuña.
Director of Photography: Inti Briones.
Edited by: Carolina Quevedo.
Music by: Cuti Aste.
Released by: Sahara Films.
Country of Origin: Chile. 90 min. Not Rated.
With: Juan Pablo Saez, Siboney Lo, Luis Wigdorsky & Gabriela Hernández.

Leyton (Saez) is the most charming and best-looking man in his small Chilean fishing village - the local sexual provocateur. Although he looks like a Botticelli portrait, his friend and fellow fisherman, Modesto (Wigdorsky), is too proud to realize how much of a sexual threat he is. Modesto chides Leyton for being too happy-go-lucky and boasts of his upcoming marriage to the town beauty, Marta (Lo). But like Iago, Leyton plants an idea in Modesto. Drunk, and prodded by Leyton, Modesto loudly intrudes late at night upon his virginal fiancée, demanding to know if he will be her first man. After being reminded that it was his idea that she save herself for marriage, Modesto then seizes the moment and a moment it is, much to Marta's disappointment, leading to an inevitable romantic triangle. Not only in its plot, but also in its male rivalry does El Leyton seem like Harold Pinter's Betrayal set by the sea. Meanwhile, the strain in Modesto and Marta's relationship is observed, with amusement, by the intruding close-knit community, which acts like a gossipy Greek chorus ruled by the all-knowing Josefa ("They [men] believe our decency lies between our legs"). Told in flashbacks, Leyton sits in judgment in Josefa's tavern, who has charged 300 pesos for admittance, disingenuously justifying his actions to the town.

The acting and the sly script are El Leyton's greatest strengths. With a voice of gravel, and a strut to match, all you need to know about Modesto is in the way he lays on his bed waiting for Marta to try on her see-through nightie: his legs spread wide apart with his hands folded behind his head. Played by Siboney Lo, Marta guards her feelings - hand to mouth, head lowered - presenting a challenge even for the smoothly confident Leyton. The sexual tension between Lo and Saez is palpable. And the grainy cinematography, shot on digital video, lends itself to the sparse working-class environment of this well-paced mixture of dark comedy and tragedy. KT
November 20, 2003



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