Goings On

New Latin American Cinema in New York

The Daily — Feb 21, 2019
Iván Fund’s There Will Come Soft Rains (2018)

Neighboring Scenes, the weeklong showcase of new Latin American cinema opening tomorrow at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, is not a greatest hits compilation. With a selection of thirteen features, many of them preceded by shorts, organizers Carlos Gutiérrez and Cecilia Barrionuevo have set out to introduce New Yorkers to a slate of promising talents alongside new work from a few names that may already be familiar: Federico Veiroj (A Useful Life, The Apostate), for example, who will open the series with Belmonte; Carlos Reygadas (Japón, Post Tenebras Lux), whose Our Time is the centerpiece screening; and Eduardo Williams (The Human Surge), presenting a program of short films, including the North American premiere of Parsi, an immersive project made in collaboration with poet Mariano Blatt.

Javier Belmonte (Gonzalo Delgado) is an artist of some renown in Montevideo, where he’s preparing for a major retrospective while juggling the demands of his elderly parents, his ex-wife, and their daughter. “What’s most remarkable about Veiroj is that his love of low-amplitude behavior and the consequent subversion of narrative are inextricable from his vigorous formal experimentation, which can be called experimental only if it is regarded in a narrative context,” writes Dan Sallitt for the Notebook. “Indeed, it’s barely an exaggeration to say that every scene in the film appears to be conceived around a formal flourish.” Veiroj is “Uruguay’s leading auteur at this point,” argues Michael Sicinski in Cinema Scope, and Belmonte, “a film about a male artist who values his family life as much as his art, if not more,” is “not only refreshing: it’s genuinely sexy.”

Following its premiere in Venice, Our Time split the critics in Toronto. Introducing his interview with Reygadas for the Notebook, Pedro Emilio Segura Bernal argues that this study of an open marriage between ranchers Juan (Reygadas) and Esther (editor Natalia López, Reygadas’s real-life partner) is “more than an analysis or narration of a love triangle.” It’s “a cinematographic and linguistic exploration of the intangible and ineffable.” Reygadas agrees: “There are things that don’t want to be de- or encoded.” And talking to André Shannon at Rough Cut, Reygadas reveals himself to be a big fan of Lucrecia Martel and Claire Denis.

For Ela Bittencourt at Hyperallergic, a highlight of last year’s Mostra de Cinema de Tiradentes was Ewerton Belico and Samuel Marotta’s debut feature Outer Edge, a portrait of the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte. Shot by Leonardo Feliciano (Araby), it’s “formally beautiful, with luscious nocturnal cinematography and monologues that sound as if they were lifted from a Greek tragedy.” At the Notebook, Bittencourt recommends Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León’s The Wolf House, a nightmare rooted in Chilean history. It’s “a decidedly adult stop-motion animation, whose psychological portent is mysterious and dense,” writes Bittencourt, “while its imaginative use of puppetry and bold animated design creates a world entirely its own, relatively rarely seen in contemporary cinema.”

Codirectors Renée Nader Messora and João Salaviza traveled to a remote village in northern Brazil to collaborate with a cast and crew of indigenous Krahô on The Dead and the Others, which won a special jury prize when it premiered in the Un Certain Regard program at Cannes last year. “More than merely respectful, the film succeeds in showing a self-sufficient society aware of the outside world yet choosing to remain true to its traditions and distinct rhythm of life,” writes Jay Weissberg in Variety. Another of last year’s Un Certain Regard entries is Alejandro Fadel’s horror movie, Murder Me, Monster. “Guillermo Del Toro, David Lynch, and Korea’s Bong Joon-ho all feel like theoretical touchstones,” writes Tim Robey in the Telegraph, “but the languid quality of the film as a police-procedural-cum-whatdunnit, with its distant shots of hilly crime scenes, calls to mind something odder and more specific: think of it as a nutso answer to Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Turkish western Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, invaded by a furious labia-faced hermaphrosaur.”

In his debut feature, Enigma, Ignacio Juricic Merillán explores the murder of a young lesbian in Santiago and its effect on her family, and the director tells Variety’s John Hopewell that he’s set the film in the 1990s to draw parallels with Chile’s transition to democracy when there was “no sense of justice or truth in what Pinochet’s regime was.” Iván Fund offers lighter fare with There Will Come Soft Rains, in which a town’s adults fall into an endless sleep and the children adjust to a world that, as Diego Lerer puts it, “combines the magic of the children’s story with the observational cinema Fund is known for.”

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