El sur

On the surface, despite the presence of a different fictional source (a story by Adelaida Garcia Morales) and scriptwriter (Jose Luis Lopez Linares), Victor Erice’s second feature seems to bring back some of the haunting obsessions of his first, the wonderful Spirit of the Beehive (1973): the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the magical spell exerted by movies over childhood, and a little girl’s preoccupation with her father and the past. But as English critic Tim Pulleine has observed, a reference to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt in El sur (South, 1983) points to an elaborate system of doubling and duplication that underlies the film’s structure as a whole, operating on the level of shots and sequences as well as themes (north and south, father and daughter, real and imaginary). Although this subtle spellbinder ends somewhat abruptly, reportedly because the film’s budget ran out, it seems to form a nearly perfect whole as it is: a brooding tale about an intense father-daughter relationship and the unknowable past, mysterious and resonant, with the poetic ambience of a story by Faulkner. Omero Antonutti (Padre padrone) plays the father; Sonsoles Aranguren is the daughter. (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30, 7:00 and 9:00; Sunday, May 1, 5:30 and 7:30; and Monday through Thursday, May 2 through 5, 7:00 and 9:00; 281-4114)

Published on 29 Apr 1988 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

No Comments >>

A Thousand Words

Made for the unthinkable sum of $7,000, Paul E. Garstki’s independent black-and-white Chicago-based feature both profits and suffers from its impoverished budget. On the plus side, a largely postdubbed sound track allows the filmmakers to tell parts of the story through the ingenious economical device of using answering-machine messages and imaginary phone conversations offscreen. A thoughtful use of local talent (stage actors John Ellerton, Warren Davis, and Diana Zimmer as the three leads and lots of local independent filmmakers in secondary parts) and locations also makes the best use of William Holst’s somewhat minimalist script, adapted from a story by Garstki. A reclusive art critic hires a young protege, who moonlights as a surveillance photographer, to go to work on a young woman (an odd plot with faint echoes of The Draughtsman’s Contract and Paul Bartel’s The Secret Cinema, without much of the humor connected to either). The main budgetary drawback is the nearly nonexistent social context; the stilted art-world talk generally fails to convince because there isn’t enough of a world in the film to establish it as either parody or the genuine article, and the characters themselves seem at times excessively limited by the exigencies of the plot. The result, then, is uneven but singular–a quirky, rather disturbing little film about voyeurism and loneliness. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, April 16, 6:00 and 8:00, 443-3737)

Published on 15 Apr 1988 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

No Comments >>

Life in Shadows

An interesting early example of reflexive, film-drenched cinema, this 1948 Spanish feature by Lorenzo Llobet Garcia, the only one ever made by its director, shows the life of a man dominated by film — beginning with his parents at a carnival exposition of Lumiere films, continuing through his activities as a film buff, critic, and newsreel cameraman, and concluding as he embarks on his own autobiographical first feature. Along the way, we are treated to chunks of Spanish history as well as personal film history: the hero falls in love with his future wife at a screening of Romeo and Juliet and years later, after her death, experiences a trauma at a screening of Rebecca. The only limitation of this single-minded chronicle is that it lacks both the obsessiveness of its subject and the ironic distance that might make it more meaningful. But as an outline of a sensibility that would come into its own with the French New Wave a decade later, Vida en sombras remains an intriguing and isolated document. Spanish film critic Roman Gubern will appear after the screening. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, April 10, 4:00, 443-3737)

Published on 08 Apr 1988 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

No Comments >>

The South

Victor Erice’s second feature (1983), based on a story by Adelaida Garcia Morales, seems to bring back some of the haunting obsessions of his first, the wonderful The Spirit of the Beehive (1973): the aftermath of the Spanish civil war, the magical spell movies exert over childhood, and a little girl’s preoccupation with her father and the past. This subtle spellbinder ends somewhat abruptly, reportedly because the film’s budget ran out, but it seems to form a nearly perfect whole as it is: a brooding tale with the poetic ambience of a Faulkner story about an intense father-daughter relationship and a mysterious and resonant past. English critic Tim Pulleine has observed that a reference to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt points to an elaborate system of duplication underlying the film’s structure, seen in shots and sequences as well as themes (north and south, father and daughter, real and imaginary). Omero Antonutti (Padre padrone) plays the father, Sonsoles Aranguren the daughter. (JR)

Published on 01 Apr 1988 in Featured Texts, by admin

No Comments >>