Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2016 5:04 pm 
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A movie about nothing, exploring the world of middle class Mexican youths

In this Mexican film three young friends on the same soccer team acquire a special mission: find some keys lost in a pile of dead leaves by one of them, Lucas (curly-haired Fabrizio Santini), when he flops down on them in his loose gym shorts and they fall out without his knowing. It's a key ring with his girlfriend's car keys too. The basic premise is nothing more than that.

The 90-minute runtime, passing through a few consecutive hours, has 9 chapters, each with a little drawing, each designating a little incident that occurred in that section. They are " I. "Grandecitos" ("Big Boys"), II. "Piedra, Papel, o Tijedra" ("Paper, rock, scissors"), III. "Calentamienta Global" ("Global Warming"), IV. "Señor Justicia" ("Captain Justice"), V. "Cara de Niño" "Potato Bug"), VI ."Playa Paraiso"("Paradise Beach"), VII. "Caballeros del Bosque" ("Knights of the Wood"), VIII. "René Higuita" (famous Colombian soccer goalie), and the climactic, naturally, IX. "Sopladora de Hojas" ("Leaf Blower"). There is never a leaf blower.

About nothing special, this is one of those movies young Latin American directors have been good at lately, like Einbecke's Duck Season and Lake Tahoe, Sandoval's You Think You're the Prettiest. One might include Ruizpalacios' Güeros, though that's more stylish and historical, or even Cuarón's Y tu Mamá también, but that's got a sex triangle and a road trip. Leaf Blowers is very, very modest in its narrative aims, but that allows it to explore its young characters freely, luxuriating in their fantasies and wordplay, the silly, endless, flavorful dialogue that is still on with much spirit after the last shot as the credits roll.

The action plays on each of the trio's prevailing "humors" - Lucas' subservience to his girlfriend Pasita (Little Raisin) on the telephone, Mili's constant eating, and Ruben's constant smoking. The nagging of Pasita is a theme. Mili and Ruben don't have girlfriends, but at least they''re not pussy-whipped. Even the cop who passes by to harass and fleece them (for burning a few leaves) picks up on it. The "what-if" fantasy moments are a bit overdone, perhaps.

This is not so much a comedy as a character study and image of the slow passage of time. They even go to a funeral, that of a young friend, and their solemn faces at this event, which is not at all comic, are one of the best moments of the film. At day's end, when each boy goes home, he has an important little scene by himself. At day's end, when each boy goes home, he has an important little scene by himself. And through that, despite the feeling of stasis much of the way, there is a subtle but clear sense of each boy's changing and growing fast.

Leave Blower gets very silly and trivial at time and it as uneventful as a Beckett play without the profundity. But it has a lot of charm and it is, among other things, a tribute to youthful friendship. That is clearly intact when the next day begins. These three actors are very good, they move around a lot, notably during a prologued period of fencing with broomsticks between Ruben and Lucas protected by Mili, and cowriter Luis Montalvo's camera is marvelously fluid in following them.

Leaf Blower/Soplandora je hojas (Épica cotidiana en 9 capítolos), 90 mins., has had three festival showings, Morelia Oct. 2015, Torino Nov. 2015, and San Francisco (where it was screened for this review) Apr. 2016. It was reviewed at Morelia in Hollywood Reporter ("Breezy and enjoyable") by Boyd van Hoeij.

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