Directed by Adrián Biniez
Thematically and visually, Gigante is as full and rich as its title suggests. Every scene is full of bold primaries that either pop under the Uruguayan sunlight and fluorescent lighting, or lurk in the expressive, neo-noir alleys of nighttime Montevido. The opening titles, a clever play of movement, sound and meaning conveyed in yellow and red, are also among the best in recent memory. The story of a graveyard shift security guard at a supermarket developing a more-or-less obsessive attachment to one of the women janitors he watches from his cell of monitors trots out some familiar, though not exhausted issues: Surveillance and the fetishizing gaze, of course, but also the sexually regimented space of the supermarket, lives experienced and controlled through screens, and more generally the commodification of human emotions and impulses. It's the characters these themes are pegged to and stretched between that often make Gigante seem like a short film in a fat suit. (In fact, one of the nominees for best live action short at this year's Oscars, On the Line, is in many ways a tighter, more fully developed if slightly less pretty version of Gigante.)
The film unfolds between bright daytime sections that seem willfully infantile, when Jara (Horacio Camandule) stalks Julia (Leonor Svarcas) like an elementary school crush, and scenes at night when more adult problems come to light. As the doughy-eyed (and doughy) lead, Camandule generally evokes a willfully isolated yet essentially functional thirtysomething, but reverts to behaving like an awkward teen whenever Julia isn't at a comfortable, mediated distance. Because so much of the film is seen from Jara's detached or concealed perspective, the object of his interest (whether his fascination could really be considered affection is unclear), Julia, is not a fully fleshed-out character so much as a vessel for fantasies. These aren't sexual or sordid fantasies—nothing as frightfully indulgent as recent supermarket voyeurism fantasy Cashback, for instance, but also nothing terribly compelling—more like an elaborate mise-en-scene Jara creates in order to play the role of savior. He watches Julia knock over a 10-foot stack of paper towel rolls, laughs at her, and then calls her supervisor away to get her out of trouble. When a cab driver yells some filthy things at her while she passes on the sidewalk, Jara, following at a safe distance, repeatedly slams the heckler's face into his steering wheel.
Easing Jara out of these awkward vacillations between an almost brutish agency and adolescent paralysis seems to be the film's principle concern. But with a somnambulic lead and essentially featureless romantic interest waiting at the end, that dubious quest is rarely interesting. Jara is guided in this journey to a more well adjusted adulthood by two characters who function as externalized versions of his teenage and mature tendencies: his video game-addicted nephew Matias (Federico Garcia) and Julio (Fernando Alonso), the charming man with whom Julia (and, by proxy, Jara) goes on one date. The latter in particular casts the film's precious magical realist milieu in an unflattering light, revealing that there are normal people capable of exchanging thoughts and expressing real emotions in this gigantic world. Cut down to fifteen minutes, or filled out with actual characters and compelling conflicts, Gigante could be a beautiful treat. As it stands it's much like Jara's job at the supermarket: spent watching pretty things with numb indifference.
Opens December 4