By Greg Bellavia | December 5, 2004

Perspective. While the nature of human perception being both unreliable and biased has been a popular theme in film ever since Kurosawa’s masterpiece “Rashomon”, “Cuco Gomez-Gomez is Dead!”, a short film by Francisco Lorite, takes this ideology a step further by playing it for laughs. Following the shooting death of mild mannered Cuco Gomez-Gomez (Joe Quintero) in his apartment, the various other tenants in his building postulate what they believe led to his demise. With theories ranging from one lovesick neighbor’s (Lola Anthony) assumption that he committed suicide for her to the CIA conspiracy theories of a wannabe revolutionary living in the building (Alejundro Furth) the film shows us that personal bias will often take the place of the truth and that we see what we wish to see. However, while the film’s point is valid, the execution undermines the overall impact and “Cuco Gomez-Gomez…” does not play out as effectively as it could.

Since the film is a comedy everyone who is interviewed is played as a caricature, there is a boxer who appears beat up and cannot be understood because he mumbles, a police officer who can’t tell his version of the story because he keeps being interrupted by various absurd police codes and the homeless man who thinks the people who aren’t charitable towards him are the prime suspects. These interviews are hit and miss with some really working (the lovesick neighbor oblivious to the fact that Cuco Gomez-Gomez was unaware of her presence) and some not working at all (a French neighbor who merely sings the films title over and over). To see the boxer once is funny but by the third time the joke is already played out. At ten minutes running time the film never wears out its welcome but could have had two minutes trimmed easily since everyone is so one-dimensional that nothing important to the piece would be lost.

Visually the film is a treat, while the interviews are filmed in color, black and white flashbacks detailing what really happened perfectly capture a film noir ambience leading up to Cuco’s death. The best visual trick is saved for last with in a series of quick flashes the film rewinds to the beginning showing one of the least profiled characters who may have known more than we realized. This great ending though does a disservice to the rest of the film since it seems to offset the zaniness that sets it up. In effect “Cuco Gomez-Gomez” may have been stronger by never showing the audience what really happened, since it is all meant for comedy why ruin the crazy theories?

Minor quibbles aside “Cuco Gomez-Gomez” is an amusing short that could have used some tightening but is consistently engaging, if a joke seems to drag another more successful one will come to take its place within moments which is more than I can say for most comedies.

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