Clemente (Odar) is a Peruvian pawnbroker with a fixed routine: Wake up. Eat. Do work. Screw prostitute. Sleep. He's the kind of guy who Robert De Niro's Heat character might admire---alone, not lonely. But then a baby girl, the product of one of his lady-of-the-evening flings, is left in his home. The lighting is noirish; the framing is deadpan (oddly reminiscent of the films of Finland's Aki Kaurismki). Both violence and laughs seem likely.
It's to the credit of codirector siblings Daniel and Diego Vega Vidal that we're kept on edge as to where things will go from here. But no guns go off, and no guts are busted. Octubre exists in its own strange tonal space, which would be a blessing if it seemed like the Vega Vidals were in full control of their effects. Instead, once Clemente hires his neighbor Sofa (an excellent Velsquez) to take care of the child, the movie quickly becomes a hodgepodge. Is it a character study of an emotionally stunted man? A thinly veiled satire of the Peruvian underclass? Or is it just a well-made but thematically muddled first feature derivative of better filmmakers? (A counterfeit bill that Clemente desperately tries to unload seems like a leftover plot device from Robert Bresson's L'Argent.) Though it holds your attention all the way through to an enigmatic, spiritually tinged climax, the movie leaves you wanting more than the Vega Vidals' secondhand artistry is able to provide.
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