Raindance 2019: Searching For Oscar review

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Premiering at the recent Raindance Film Festival is Searching For Oscar – and here’s our review.

Octavio Guerra paints a portrait of loneliness through his depiction of the enigmatic Oscar Peyrou. Known for his controversial approach to film criticism in that he doesn’t often see films, instead, Peyrou reviews them entirely from the poster. The critic spends his year jet setting from place to place for the world’s most esteemed film festivals. “How many films have you seen?” his taxi driver asks him on a journey out of Chicago Latino Festival “None,” he says, “I came to buy underpants.” His sharp wit and humour shine in the rare moments he’s in human company. Peyrou is mostly found in quiet solitude, working, eating and travelling alone.

Beginning the documentary two years from the death of Peyrou’s ex-wife, Guerra endeavours to keep a sensitivity to his narrative. Although his polemic is clear he does his best to not present Oscar as a victim. “You created a lot of exasperation” escapes from a friend’s mouth at dinner one evening in the middle of a heated discussion. Oscar is rarely in the company of loved ones. The purpose of the debate is easily forgettable but what is not is the boyish misery that lands in Oscar’s eyes as his friend walks away.

It’s when the film takes a trip to a press conference at the San Sebastián Film Festival that the film further explores this melancholy. Peyrou struggles through a question to Ewan McGregor: “Do you think the film’s poster represents it? … Do you think a review could be done entirely from the poster?”, aiming to get to the point of validation that his methods aren’t entirely mad. “Do I like the poster?” McGregor manages after a momentary confusion. An audience innocently chuckles while Peyrou surrenders. That brief encounter is enough to send you to tears. Within the next few minutes, Peyrou is scooping a spoonful of baby food into his mouth as a radio interview mocking his practice plays in the background.

Searching For Oscar leaves you with a sort of emptiness, lost in thought of the haunting images of a man wading through life seemingly unnoticed. A reading from his book reveals the line “I woke with an immense sadness.” Watching someone so boldly admit their defeat is chilling. The subtlety of Guerra’s work won’t fully unravel the enigma, instead, it’ll present you with new questions. It may even invite you to embrace your loneliness.

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