A Useful Life

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 March, 2011, 12:00am

Federico Veiroj's 67-minute feature is one of the most heartening films made in recent years about the demise of old-school cinephilia.

Shot in gorgeous black-and-white in the classic 4:3 aspect ratio and backed by a lush score harking back to the silent-film era, A Useful Life revolves around Jorge (right, played by real-life film critic Jorge Jellinek), a Cinemateca Uruguaya programmer dedicated to his work. In deadpan scenes, he wordlessly inspects film reels, checks the softness of theatre seats and delivers introductions to films at sparsely attended screenings.

His life is thrown into disarray when the authorities decide to cease funding the cinematheque. Jorge's devastation is palpable - I challenge anyone not to be moved by the sight of this bear of a man weeping on the tram after leaving his workplace for the last time - but Veiroj is no miserablist.

Paying homage to subtle romance dramas of yore, the filmmaker has Jorge rediscovering other purposes in life, as he reconnects with his father and reaches out from within his erstwhile suppressed self to court a university professor (Paola Venditto). This leads to one of the film's most magical scenes, in which Jorge releases his feelings and thoughts in a classroom. A piece of pure cinema in both form and content, A Useful Life is a brilliant, heart-rending celebration of the medium. Mar 27, 5.30pm, UA Cityplaza.