An unsung Competition film in last year’s Venice Competition selection, Competentia Oficial (Official Competition) is a wickedly playful satirical triumph that deserved more than to go home empty-handed from 2021’s awards ceremony.
Directed by Argentinean directorial duo Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn (The Man Next Door, The Distinguished Citizen), Official Competition starts with ageing and obscenely wealthy entrepreneur Humberto Suàrez (José Luis Gómez) fearing about his legacy. Instead of doing something truly meaningful, he decides to fund a movie adaption of a book called Rivalry.
He hires eccentric arthouse director Lola Cuevas (Penélope Cruz), who is given complete creative control. She chooses to whip into shape her two clashing and dysfunctional actors: movie star heartthrob Félix Rivero (Antonio Banderas) and intellectual thespian’s thespian Ivàn Torres (Oscar Martínez).
While it’s tempting to initially celebrate the dazzling trio of actors – specifically Cruz’s astounding turn and her wonderfully subversive frizzy perm – the film’s main draw remains the riotous script, by Gastòn Duprat, Mariano Cohn, and Andrés Duprat.
You truly get the impression through its lampooning insights that this is a film made by people who genuinely know the film industry, as opposed to people who think they know what goes on behind the glitzy Hollywood curtain. And as much as Official Competition is a deliciously caustic send-up of the creative process and a silly missile aimed at filmmaking’s self-obsessed elites and its unchecked egos – specifically when it comes to the messianic pomposity of the acting profession – this satire never forgets to provide some pitch-perfect belly laughs.
Crucially, this occasionally very dark comedy never stoops to easy spite: the jokes expose the absurd pretentiousness rife within the film (and film festival) world but they also pay homage to the unique craft and the magic it can create. This makes Official Competition a film about filmmaking that is all too aware of the cinematic artifice, and a total blast that will doubtlessly end up as the one of the year’s best comedies. Don’t miss out. ★★★★
- Competentia Oficial (Official Competition) D: Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn (Argentina, Spain, 2021), with Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez. Starts June 30.