Watching a Pedro Almodóvar film comes with certain expectations. Loud, outrageous, female-fronted melodrama has become his trademark, and he works it beautifully. For decades he has managed to walk the fine line between bad taste and camp almost perfectly as in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Volver, and even his few misfires (What Have I Done To Deserve This?) are worth admiring in their transgressive nature.
This is why Pain and Glory, his 21st feature, might surprise even his fervent followers for its sober tone and austere aesthetic. It’s Almodóvar at his most earnest, without the tricks and shock value. Some of his idiosyncrasies are present, and the movie doesn’t lack his usual moments of levity, but even the comedic aspects ring sincere. He hasn’t made it a secret that this is an autobiographical piece of work, and though only he can attest to how personal it is, it definitely reads as honest.
Continue reading “‘Pain and Glory’ Finds Pedro Almodóvar Reckoning With His Past”
Tension has become a trademark in Marco Berger’s work. You’re aware going into one of his films that the will-they won’t-they suspense will drive the narrative. The spaces in his films brim with silence, allowing the restless expressions in his characters’ faces do the talking. The point is not to make it seem like words are irrelevant—on the contrary, it is when his characters come clean that you realize the power of just talking. It is fitting then that The Blonde One, Berger’s latest film, was conceived with a mute lead in mind. While at the end they were forced to scratch that idea, Gabriel, the titular blonde (Taekwondo’s Gaston Re), clings to quietness throughout the story, even being referred to as “the mute” by his friends.
We meet Gabriel as he’s moving in to his co-worker Juan’s (Alfonso Barón) flat so he can be close to his place of work. Juan looks infatuated with the man from the moment he arrives, glancing at him for a bit too long and standing a bit too close to him at every chance he gets. While Gabriel is apprehensive at first, as he has a girlfriend and a daughter living with his parents, he’s ultimately responsive to Juan’s insinuations. The sexual tension builds until the end of the first act when a proposal to go out and buy beer quickly escalates—Juan finally acts on his desires and Gabriel reciprocates leniently. The implication here might be that we’re observing the dawn of a new love, but as Juan kicks Gabriel out of his room after having sex, we learn that’s not the case.
Continue reading “FICG ’19: ‘The Blonde One’ is a triumphant rumination on machismo”
“My body is like a battlefield where the opponents fight one another,” proclaims acclaimed dancer and choreographer Rianto midway through Garin Nugroho’s newest film. He’s not only the narrator, but the story is also based in his own life. Indeed, the constant struggle that Juno, Rianto’s fictional representation, experiences with gender is the driving force for the aptly titled Memories of My Body.
The film is told in sections, marked by Juno’s age. In its early sections, it becomes evident that Juno is at odds with the world around him. Nugroho cleverly juxtaposes shots of kids playing and having fun with one another as Juno tends to be shown by himself, purposely avoiding people when possible. The children bully him and his teacher doesn’t hesitate to abuse him at the slightest mistake, even going as far as forcing him to write on the blackboard with chalk in his mouth. Juno is only happy when he is alone and spying on dancers as they put on makeup and practice their routines. As he watches them dance throughout the early stages of his life, his features fill with longing for what he can’t be.
Continue reading “FICG ’19: ‘Memories of My Body’ is a Personal and Harrowing Look at Gender”
The search for one’s origin can be unyielding. A quest for belonging, for understanding of who we are and why we exist. It could be difficult for people who have never questioned where they came from to grasp how profound doubt is present in the everyday life of someone that’s missing a key piece of their identity. Bloodline is the thematic element that ties multiple parts in Jaime Rosales’ Petra.
Continue reading “FICG ’19: A promising set-up turns convoluted in Jaime Rosales’ “Petra””
This piece is not spoiler free.
Going into Roma, the new film by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón, my expectations were quite high. It wasn’t only because he happened to be my favorite director growing up (and is still my favorite out of the three amigos), but finding out this was his comeback to México made me ecstatic. Call it Mexican pride, but I’ve always preferred the works he made here over his mainstream American ones. I’m afraid my anticipation might have clouded my judgement when I first watched the film, as coming out of the theater, my first instinct was to praise it for its technical achievements. But, there was this uneasiness that I just couldn’t shake, which only grew stronger as the days passed.
Continue reading “Cuarón’s Problem with Portraying the Working & Middle Class in “Roma””