Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:50 pm 
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GERMAN DE SILVA AND NAYRA CALLE MAMANI IN LAS ACACIAS

Sweet little uneventful road trip across Argentina

Pable Giorgelli, an editor and documentary filmmaker, has chosen for his first feature the quiet matter of a woman and her five-month-old daughter riding from Paraguay to Buenas Aires with a lonely truck driver and a load of lumber. In this very slow burner, there is hardly any conversation for a long time, and when there is some, it's laconic. But the seemingly gruff driver, who lives alone and hasn't seen his own son for eight years, turns out to have a kind heart that begins to throb a bit for his two passengers. A more conventional, less art-house film would end with wedding bells. This only finishes with a vague promise of meeting to ride together again. Dry though this is, under the surface there's a layer of saccharine. The pair are played with understated but pitch-perfect appealingness by Germán De Silva, as Rubén, the driver, and Hebe Duarte, as Jacinta, the Guarani-speaking mother. The baby girl performs perfectly too. The camera caught the right moments.

Not much external scenery, though, in this road picture -- if there were any to catch -- because the camera spends most of its time inside the cab of the truck. The lensing by Diego Poleri is smooth and unobtrusive. Music is locally occurring only. The smiles are slow to appear but very natural. The virtue of the long time taken for the two adults to warm up a bit and start talking (a bit) is that when they do there is the feel of actual shy people slowly unwinding in real time. But I found myself longing for what I would consider the much more distinctive Patagonian understatedness of the little films of Carlos Sorin, like El Perro. Maybe Giorgelli, who is doubtless well acquainted with Sorin, will open things up more next time; what he gives us on this outing may be smoothly executed and a very mild charmer but it's pretty thin soup. The impression one comes away with is of perfectly managed modulation from tepid to lukewarm.

Not everything feels naturalistic here, either: baby Anahi (Nayra Calle Mamani) goes for an awfully long time before needing to be changed. Practical details (other than Rubén's sit-down meal at a way-station and a couple of showers) are ignored as rigorously as the scenery out the window.

Others have been more enthusiastic. Las Acacias debuted at Cannes in May 2011 and received the Caméra d'Or award for Best First Film. It has subsequently been shown at a dozen other festivals. It has had commercial releases in Spain, Argentina, the UK, Ireland, France and Greece. The French critics were highly receptive (Allociné 4.0). However there are those who feel as I tend to that in this particular example of minimalism there is not enough passion or ambition, almost no there there. Or at least hardly any. But mind you, there are no wrong notes. Giorgelli's feature debut was screened for this review as part of the March 21-April 1, 2012 MoMA-FSLC New Directors/New Films series, where it will be shown to the public at these locations on these dates:


Thursday, March 22nd | 6 PM | FSLC
Saturday, March 24th | 4 PM | MoMA

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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