The MichaelVox Movie Review Weblog
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March 8, 2008
San Jose Cinequest Film Festival 18
Juan Patricio Riveroll
One of my favorites of the festival. The film opens on an incredibly gorgeous young woman lying on her stomach in bed. She is topless, the room is bright and airy, the sheets white. We stay on her for longer than a glimpse. She gets dressed, answers the phone, and calls offscreen to Pablo, her lover. She is about 20. He is about 50. There is silence that speaks of a lengthy relationship. He begins talking on the phone and it becomes clear that he is speaking to his wife and that the lovers have only just met recently.
The silences, where nothing is said, are what make this film special.
We follow the two as they travel around Mexico while Pablo writes a travel book. He is a college professor and an author of some renown, but "family things got in the way" of his writing a second book. He is handsome and educated and has friends who are wealthy. She has barely formed as a person, but is almost disarmingly attractive. What can they get from each other?
Pablo's family is breaking up, his phone calls home get more and more tense. His wife doesn't allow him to speak with his daughters, one of whom is scarcely younger than his bedmate. The style of the film is slow and meandering, in the best possible ways. There are long passages with no dialogue. They travel to a town, we see one of them speak with someone who lives there, the other is off doing something else. The conversations don't try to move the plot along, they are just conversations. Just like real life.
There are long shots of Pablo's '65 Mustang driving through the countryside of Mexico on two-lane unpopular roads. The film is divided up into "Acts", and each act begins with a roman numeral, followed by the girl waking up in a different hotel bed, looking gorgeous and wearing a different cute t-shirt. We hear opera throughout these long passages.
There are several memorable scenes, including one where they stop for a break in a dusty town's outdoor cafe. He sets about jotting down notes while enjoying a beer, and then we follow the girl (I don't know her character's name) as she begins speaking with the ancient woman who runs the place. It's like they stumbled upon this woman working there. Do you want something to drink? Beer? We have something stronger, tequila? Sure. Join me in a glass? I'm too old young lady. Then we learn the old woman's story. She isn't the slightest bit put off by the age difference, discusses with pride her business and her numerous grandchildren, the girl continuously refills her glass, and it seems like a great way to spend a lazy afternoon.
The photography is stunning. Long wide shots of towns and hotel rooms and Mexico City marches and countryside and the greatest beach house I've ever seen. The framing is perfect, the camera movement slow and steady. I can't say enough about the vibe of this thing. The girl calls her angry mother from time to time without explaining who she's with or what she's doing. Pablo constantly tries to get her to stay with him. Friends of his remark on his "friend" and her incredible youth. And the two of them are terrible and perfect for each other. The girl often acts like a spoiled teenager, the man like a cold, boring old man. We see them cuddle, but don't see any actual lovemaking and that might make the whole thing a bit easier to buy. "Is this your daughter, Pablo?" one man asks. "No, she's a friend."
Later scenes show the growing awareness that the girl has in her station, her uncomfortableness with his fancy friends, and the possibility of a future with this man.
Pablo is played by Arturo Rios who was also in my favorite film of 2001, Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN. The girl is played by, I believe, a woman named Marina Magro and this is her only listing on IMDB. I hope to see more of her as I'll probably never get over my crush. But more importantly, I want to see what director Juan Patricio Riveroll does next.
My seatmates and I heard all kinds of grumbling when the film ended. Nothing happened, the plot meandered, I didn't get it. That type of commentary. There were the chuckles of people who weren't sure how to feel when the lights came up. Just let it sweep over you. We are spending time with these characters. For about a week. Marvel in the beautiful shot selection, watch the actors' faces for signs of feeling for each other, listen to the natural language. And I dare you not to fall in love with the girl.