Friday, March 12, 2010

Released Tuesday on DVD: "Gigante"

Grade: B

Gigante, a small, unpretentious slice of Uruguayan neo-realism, is a steadily observant portrait of the humdrum life of Jara (Horacio Camandule), a stocky 35-year-old night security guard in a supermarket on the outskirts of Montevideo.

His primary duty is to keep an eye out for shoplifting among the women who clean the floors at night. One evening he catches sight of Julia (Leonor Svarcas), a shapely young woman with a mop and bucket, and is instantly smitten.

Shy and overweight with kind eyes and no delusions of grandeur, Jara sleeps by day and on the weekends works as a nightclub bouncer; his hulking appearance belies the fact that he is the furthest thing from a menacing control freak. When Julia shows up at the club and tries to talk her way in without paying the cover charge, the ever-bashful Jara hides rather than introduce himself.

As he lumbers through his routine, Jara alternates between two T-shirts, one that reads "Biohazard" and the other "Motorhead." He is a fan of heavy-metal rock, and it turns out that Julia shares his taste. At first Jara spends his working hours tracking Julia's movements on the store's surveillance monitors. As his romantic infatuation develops, he begins discreetly following her after work, trailing her to an Internet cafe and to her home.

There is no hint that Jara might be a dangerous stalker. Rather, he imagines himself as Julia's protector. And when he overhears a man in a car making obscene comments as she passes, he rushes to the vehicle and attacks him. Inside the store he watches in anguish as a younger, better-looking worker flirts with her. When they disappear into a part of the store where there are no cameras, he takes desperate action and activates the sprinkler system.

At one point he follows Julia on a date, and afterwards strikes up a conversation with a man, whom she met online; the date is not optimistic about his future prospects.

The first feature directed by Adrian Biniez, an Argentine-born musician turned filmmaker, Gigante is a calm, ground-level examination of a monotonous workplace with an oppressive hierarchy in which a minor mistake is cause to be fired.

Although the movie deserves the restive disgruntlement that simmers among its workers, it is not overtly political. It is an appealing, gently comedic prologue to a love story.

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