REVIEW : Dark and outlandish humor abounds in Alonso Llosa’s “La Restauración”

Santa Barbara International Film Festival is up against Sundance this year, so the demands for top independent films are especially heightened this season, as are the demands on stars like Brad Pitt (bestowed an honor in California) to choose one or the other.

As always, there are unexpected gems, including a rather offbeat comedy from South America I was able to see (review below), and which you should definitely keep an eye out for.

“La Restauración”

A thoroughly funny comedy from Peru, “La Restauración” is the first full-length feature from writer/director Alonso Llosa. Llosa’s film begins with footage of contemporary Lima, with skyscrapers taking up seemingly every last inch of space in this ancient city, as Tato (Paul Vega) intones in voiceover about how much his city is changing. He also says that his mother Rosa (Delfina Paredes) still maintains the old ways in one of the last remaining “classic” apartment buildings in the Peruvian capital, with the land worth far more than her house.

If only she would move.

And Tato is no angel: He has an expensive cocaine habit and practically no income. When Rosa falls ill, he conceives a hilariously ludicrous plan to “reconstruct” Rosa’s bedroom in the desert, fake her death and sell the house out from under her to a real estate shark (Pietro Sibille). This can only be done if the phony bedroom is exact to a T, and thus he’ll need help—and a promise that his co-conspirators will share in the profits.

By turns heartwarming and heart-wrenching, this is a dark comedy that never forgets that material this outlandish needs to be funny to be palatable—and is.

“La Restauración” had two screenings this week at SBIFF, and it deserves a following.

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