"...an elegy to cinephilia and the lives less ordinary keeping it on life support..." - Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
This gentle black-and-white ode to a life lived among the reels was one of the discoveries of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. Forty-five and saddled with a fashion sense as outdated as the videotapes he hides his keys in, Jorge (played by Uruguayan film critic Jorge Jellinek) has worked his entire adult life at Montevideo's Cinemateca Uruguaya. His routine has remained the same for years: projecting films, greeting the same six or seven audience members in line for every show, chatting with colleagues over possible series ("You take the Fridrik Thor Fridriksson") and deciding what to repair next (the projectors or the seats?). But his days in cinema and those of his boss (played by the former head of the Cinemateca, Manuel Martínez Carril) might be coming to a sudden and life-changing end with the threatened closure of the economically unviable institution. A deadpan comedy of cinema and obsolescence, A USEFUL LIFE frames Jorge (and the archive) within a succession of outmoded technologies: faxes, telegrams, videotapes, reel-to-reel recorders and payphones. At the same time, a flirtation with a female patron suggests a course of action. For a life spent working in film may end. But a life spent living with cinema? Not only useful but filled with hope, romance and dreams. - Jason Sanders
After twenty-five years, Cinemateca Uruguaya's most devoted employee, Jorge (real-life Uruguayan critic Jorge Jellinek) still finds his inspiration in caring for the films and audiences that grace the seats and screen of his beloved arthouse cinema. But when dwindling attendance and diminishing support force the theater to close its doors, Jorge is sent into a world he knows only through the lens of art and suddenly forced to discover a new passion that transcends his once-celluloid reality. Stylishly framed in black-and-white with brilliantly understated performances, Federico Veiroj's sly and loving homage to the soul of cinema is a universally appealing gem and knowing charmer about life after the movies.
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A quiet human portrait, specially recommended for devoted cinephiles. Makes its points without effort, subtly and beautifully.
The first half of "A Useful Life" reminds us of the endangered state of the "traditional" film experience -one with reels of celluloid, delicate projectors, and real seats in real theaters. But far from an admonishment or a simple act of futile nostalgia, the film becomes exactly what it celebrates: cinema magic. The shift in tone and subject in the second half is surprising, rewarding, and delightful.