TIFF 2011: ‘Superclasico’ an unusually upbeat take on life after divorce

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Directed by Ole Christian Madsen

Screenplay by Ole Christian Madsen and Anders Frithiof August

2011, Denmark

Festival favourite Ole Christian Madsen (Flame and Citroen) returns to the Toronto International Film festival with Superclasico : a measured, fun, and thoughtful comedy-drama crowd-pleaser which suggests that divorce doesn’t always signal just the end of a doomed relationship, but also some possible benefits. Part of the Contemporary World Cinema programme, Madsen’s Danish comedy finds Christian (as played by Anders W. Berthelsen from Italian for Beginners) making the high stakes trek from Copenhagen to Bueno Aires with his son Oscar to try and win back his mercurial and career-driven wife Anna (Paprika Steen from 1998’s The Celebration) who has recently served him papers and ran off to be with an infamous and successful footballer Juan Diaz (Sebastian Estevanez).    Jamie Morton plays their silent and sullen,  Kierkegard-reading son Oscar stuck in the middle of this mess who is creaking and potentially cracking through his own teenage growing pains.  All of this drama is set against the backdrop of the Superclasico soccer championship that has taken the Argentinian city by storm.

This film works at its best when following Christian in his travels around Buenos Aires, which here is almost bursting to the brim with colour and energy, courtesy of the talents of frequent cinematography collaborator Jorgen Johansson.  After initially being rebuffed coldly by Anna who hasn’t expected his visit, Christian ends up at a bar where the patrons are celebrating the Superclasico and he gets a chance to co-miser-ate with a Chilean wine maker (Miguel Dedovich)  who presents his own curmudgeonly crafted manifesto on multiple marriage and divorce.  Likewise, Christian’s interactions with Juan’s maid Fernanda (played wickedly sweet by Adriana Mascialino in a scene-stealing performance) provide some nice oddball comedy touches and moments of focus for Christian’s emotional journey.  The lesser, but sweetly satisfying B-story finds Oscar running out on his squabbling parents while out sight-seeing (and renting a room of his own!) and forming a friendship and eventual romance with a beautiful tour guide played by Daphne Schiling.

Where Superclasico slips a bit is in its efforts to keep things together when vascillating between being a real drama focussed on divorce and a crowd-pleasing comedy where you are rooting for the underdog.  The tonal shifts in story towards the end of the film feel a bit odd and programmed as the viewer watches Christian crash and burn from one bumbling humiliation to the next.  Luckily, Berthelsen, Steen and Morton help to bring the film back from the comedy rafters and help to bring things to a human place that feels tangible.  While not a perfect comedy, Superclasico still shines in its capacity to act as both sparkling travelogue and commentary on the aftermath of divorce.

Gregory Ashman

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