Thursday, April 12, 2018

On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl): Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl), Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary, 2017
Closing Film (Sun Apr 9, 2017, 22:00)

I was a little wary of this one; the description mentions "a slaughterhouse in Budapest is the setting of a strangely beautiful love story", and—well, watching animals die, let alone in a systematized, 'commercially viable' way is low on my list of things I find entertaining. But the festival people were pretty convincing, and we ended up getting tickets.

Yes, the slaughterhouse isn't toned down or disguised, and a good portion of it plays a key part in the development of the story. And since the film is in Hungarian, it wasn't like I could look away during those gory scenes; I tried to read the subtitles as fast as possible, to train my eyes to focus only on the subs and ignore the images (it's more difficult than you might think; the eye wants to follow movement, make sense of the colors and shapes), but there were some spots, maybe one or two, when I did look away completely, and subs be damned.

But it was worth it.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Arábia: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Arábia (Araby), João Dumans & Affonso Uchoa, 2017 (Uruguay)
Sunday, April 9th, 2017, 18:15

A story within a story, both of them riveting, this film is a journey of loss and nostalgia, of social injustice—but also, most poignantly, of hope and joy and the beauty of a simple life. It's a hard film with a soft heart; a story of love and poverty, of hope and its clash with reality.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Donkeyote: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Sunday, April 9th, 2017, 14:15

To this day I'm still not sure whether it was a documentary or fiction, or a mix of both. It's catalogued as a documentary, but it feels like fiction. Something magical-realist here. A quirky film, certainly—but endearingly, maybe even wisely, so. And how could it not be? The wordplay in the title isn't just a tongue-in-cheek throwback to the Cervantes classic; this film is a subtle tribute to the Dreamer, a modern reminder, perhaps even a revival, of the Quijote and its magic: the mask of satire that slips and reveals nostalgia underneath, the whistle-in-the-dark laughter at the expense of old age, the self-deprecating dig at our own idealism—and the sudden spark of hope that maybe the impossible dream really isn't all that impossible.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Neruda: Reviews from the 2017 Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Sunday, April 9th, 2017, 11:45

Pablo Larraín was the only director to have two films at the festival: Jackie, and this one. Both extraordinary, as different from each other as oil and water, both clear evidence—maybe even more so taken like this, together—of Larraín's exceptional talent for narrative and conceptualization.

If Larraín's name sounds familiar, it might be because his latest production, Una Mujer Fantástica (2017), won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film at this latest edition of the Academy Awards. Or perhaps you saw No back in 2012, which also starred Mexican actor and activist Gael García Bernal.

In Neruda, García Bernal plays the bad guy. Well, sort of; he is the main character (arguably—and they do argue this in the film), in the sense that the film depicts his journey from 'bad' guy (the police inspector chasing Neruda, who's become a fugitive in his native Chile after joining the Communist party) to... well, if I tell you that, I'd be spoiling the entire film for you.

Suffice it to say this: Neruda is as far from Il Postino as one can get. (And, as far as 'poetry' films go, it's an entirely different universe from Paterson.) I don't mean just in the context of filmmaking or cinematography or narrative style—although, yes, there is that. But the Neruda we see in Larraín's production is the politician, the activist, the figurehead for social upheaval, as much as he is The Poet—and in the process of portraying this 'other' side of the man, Larraín's achievement is to give this Poet, a mythical, almost ethereal, creature, a dimension of humanity and reality that makes him—Neruda—all the more indelible as a historical figure. And—perhaps most importantly—translates his poetry into the language it was always meant to speak: the political.

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