A "man's journey towards absolute failure". That is how star and co-writer Alfredo Castro has described 'Tony Manero', a very bizarre look at life in Pinochet's Chile, with its central character a middle-aged creep who is convinced that fame is just a dance routine away.

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Unemployed and living in a rundown boarding house, Raúl Peralta (Castro) spends his days watching 'Saturday Night Fever' in an empty cinema. The more he watches it, the more he's convinced that he can become John Travolta's character in the American film. He gets a white suit, dyes his hair, assembles a neighbourhood dance troupe to recreate the scenes and enters a TV competition to find the 'Chilean Tony Manero'. But this isn't just some doomed attempt by a man in his fifties to claw back his youth; it's far more disturbing than that. And Raúl will stop at nothing to fuel his fantasy.

By this stage you've gathered that this is only a first date movie if you only want there to be a first date. Filled with the desperate, deluded and downright nasty, 'Tony Manero' dunks your head right down in life's cesspool and rarely lets you up for air. Director Larrain uses his central character to explore people's obsession with fame, the power of American popular culture and the desire to escape reality - there are some laughs, but grinding misery gives the film its energy. Dead-eyed throughout, Castro delivers a chilling performance as the completely unhinged Raúl, a man so desperate to be someone that the lives of others mean nothing to him. It's some achievement to make a lead character with no redeeming features so compelling, but you will feel here that you can't look away.

And that you need to have a shower afterwards.

Harry Guerin