Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning poet Pablo Neruda in this inventive biopic, which playfully creates a cat-and-mouse adventure as it traces two years in which he was pursued by government officials who wanted to arrest him for his communist ideas. It's funny and emotional, and visually stunning as it criss-crosses Chile from the ocean to the ice-capped Andean peaks. And its originality makes it simply stunning.
In 1948, Pablo (Luis Gnecco) is a senator in Chile's parliament when right-wing President Gonzalez (the great Alfredo Castro) begins cracking down on communists. Pablo is famous for his movingly evocative poems, which champion the working classes even though he lives the life of a rock star. So he goes into hiding with his painter wife Delia (Mercedes Moran), abandoning their amazing art-filled home for a cramped apartment. As they wait for their handlers to figure a way to smuggle them out of the country to Europe, they learn that the government has assigned a top cop to track them down: Oscar (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a second-generation detective with serious daddy issues. He's also relentless in his pursuit, following Pablo and Delia around the country as Pablo leaves tantalising clues behind.
The film is structured like an extended chase sequence, as these two men try to outsmart each other. Along the way, the story traverses Chile both ideologically and geographically. Even with the quirky-arty tone, the perspective is remarkably internalised. The central idea is that these two men need each other to define who they are, fuelling each others' obsessions as they essentially create each others' stories. It's a complex idea that plays out with comedy and insight that's conveyed sharply by the two actors, who invest plenty of wit into the procedings.
Continue reading: Neruda Review
The title translates as "the swamp," but it's also the name of the Argentinean city that serves as the film's setting. In this sweltering backwater, two branches of the same large family are put back in contact when a pair of accidents lands a member of each in the clinic run by "the gringo," a local doctor. One group - a married couple with innumerable children and their constantly-present friends - lives in the city, comfortably, but still scraping to get by. The other - an heiress, her drunken husband, their innumerable children, and an indigenous housekeeper named Isabel - pass the hours in a lavish but crumbling estate attained through a ridiculously complex series of gates near the mountains outside La Ciénaga. When the city family pays their relatives a visit at this estate, the repressed drama of La Ciénaga gets underway.
Continue reading: La Ciénaga Review