Sunday, October 06, 2019

IFFBoston 2019.182: Monos with bonus Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

I've mentioned a few times during my IFFBoston entries (almost done, five months later!) that there were a fair amount of decisions I tried to make on the basis of "will this thing get a theatrical release later?" that had me surprised at how many movies already had distributor logos in front of them. Monos was one that I I nervously pushed aside even though I wasn't exactly sure that it would play theaters despite having a kind-of-recongizable American name in the cast. Glad to see it made it, though it may only have a few days left in Boston.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles has already left; it was scheduled for a one-week run and I just didn't have a lot of time to write it up around work and other stuff this week. The idea of it is good, but it doesn't quite work out as a whole. More animated biographies in general would be nice, though.

In terms of being an unintentional double feature - they are both the sort of movie where you might wince at how animals are treated. Buñuel does not shy with how the title character worked hard to capture the way that animals die in ways just as horrific as people do in Las Hurdes, and there's a fair amount of time spent butchering a cow in amateurish fashion in Monos that may make you want to look away. Given that they're both short-ish films, it was kind of a lot by the end of the night.

Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas (Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 September 2019 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

There seems to have been an uptick in biographical graphic novels in recent years, and the idea of films taking the same sort of approach to biographies is tantalizing. Animation has the unique ability to recreate a subject's appearance and movement without seeming like an imitation, and is able to emphasize and exaggerate in ways that may seem phony in live-action. Filmmaker Salvador Simo Busom's film about Luis Buñuel getting one of his own movies made had the right idea, even if the actual picture can use some refinement.

It opens as Buñuel's second film, L'Age d'Or, is just about to open in Paris. Though many of his fellow filmmakers find it a surrealist masterpiece, others are more interested in how Dali was an influence, and it is reviled by mainstream audiences, to the point where it is impossible for Buñuel (voice of Jorge Usón) to find financing for another. An old friend from back home, Ramón Acín Aquilué (voice of Fernando Ramos), impulsively buys a lottery ticket and offers to finance and produce a film if he wins. When the ticket does pay off, they are off to Las Hurdes, a desperately poor region of Spain, to document the region with cinematographer Eli Lota (voice of Cyril Corral), who originally brought the project to Buñuel's attention, and Pierre Unik (voice of Luis Enrique de Tomás), an assistant director and camera operator who has worked on Buñuel's previous films. Ramón will soon find that there is a great deal of difference between admiring an audacious genius and managing one.

The conflict between Luis and Ramón will often drive the story, emphasizing that it is often a bad idea to go into business with a friend, and that the "suits" who are often decried as standing in an artist's way are often creative people themselves, doing their best to make sure that the project eventually winds up in some sort of complete form. It's a familiar-enough refrain that the specifics of this project become more interesting: There is something kind of fascinating about the idea of a surrealist trying to make a documentary, with Buñuel trying to mold the story and force the more outrageous elements to the fore even if it makes the film less of a true depiction of what would have happened the day he filmed it had he not been there, even as the reality is affecting him. Simo Busom, arguably doing the same thing himself, doesn't come down hard on either side but plays with the question.

Full review on EFilmCritic


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 28 September 2019 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run, DCP)

There's a shot in this movie with a pig's head on a stake that seems so unconnected to the rest of the scene that it mostly makes me wonder if Lord of the Flies is also required reading in Colombian high schools and the sort of thing that needs to be referenced when you make a story about kids going feral without adult supervision in the middle of nowhere. It's an impressive take on that basic idea, reflecting a world that is more chaotic even if isolation is more difficult.

The kids in the movie are child soldiers, part of an Organization that has them on a mountaintop, given orders by a short, muscular Messenger (Wilson Salazar) to guard "prisoner of war" Doctor Sara Wilson (Julianne Nicholson) and a dairy cow that local farmers have "donated" to the cause. There are eight, led by Lobo (Julián Giraldo), the oldest of the crew: his girlfriend Lady (Karen Quintero), Dog (Paul Cubides), Boom Boom (Sneider Castro), Swede (Laura Castrillón), Bigfoot (Moisés Arias), nervous Rambo (Sofia Buenaventura), and Smurf (Deibi Rueda), the youngest. Messenger has drilled them, but they're teenagers with guns - things will go wrong, and they will not react well to that happening.

From the start, filmmaker Alejandro Landes is more obviously interested in striking images than meticulously-structured chains of events; he opens it with the kids blindfolded, playing a game of soccer where the ball is a bell, moving carefully and then darting after the thing when it moves. It's a wonderfully surreal scene that maybe doesn't directly foreshadow the rest of the film but establishes the kids as capable despite what they lack. It also gives the viewer a chance to look around the initial setting and see how removed it is from the normal world, something that will come into play a few times. He'll soon be contrasting the two teenage girls in the group offering to braid "La Doctora's" hair and the dungeon in which she's kept, with proof-of-life procedures often seeming confusing, like it's not clear to anyone what The Organization is trying to accomplish.

Full review on EFilmCritic

No comments: