The South American Way By Pablo Scholz

in 58th Cannes Film Festival

by Pablo Scholz

Cannes is usually the place where Latin American cinema takes off every year. Thanks to the programming of different sections, Adrián Caetano, Carlos Reygadas, Lisandro Alonso, Alejandro González Iñárritu have had the opportunity of being present there, as Marcelo Gomes and Amat Escalante have this year. All of them with their first films, except Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero who presented their second films; last year Martel competed for the Golden Palm. They all deserve attention because of the wide perspective of a new and younger Latin American cinema – a cinema that tries to detach itself from a business-oriented attitude and to shake up deep-rooted structures, being more conceptually and formally open.

It is not just the need of a formal or excessive search (Reygadas, sometimes Iñárritu) or the Bressonian breath (Alonso) that motivates them. The truth is that Cannes this year showed two Brazilian films in Un certain regard, two Mexican movies (Official Competition and Un certain regard), two Argentine films (Un certain regard and the Fortnight) and one from Uruguay (Orlando Vargas, by Juan Pittaluga) in the Critic’s Week.

Obviously, the level is quite uneven, in spite of the fact that Escalante is Reygadas’s assistant – he uses Panavision, as Reygadas did in Japon, and Sangre has lots of notes from that director. They are not only distinct films but similar in some ways. For example, the Argentinean Juan Solanas’s excellent Nordeste is completely different and remote from Albertina Carri’s Géminis. But Carri’s third full-length film was produced by Trapero and resembles Martel’s La Ciénaga not just in some aspects of the plot.

Some of the subjects are similar: a French woman going to Argentina to buy a baby (Nordeste), and an aristocratic family which hides the incestuous relationship between two brothers (Géminis) from Argentina. From Brazil, the powerful interpersonal relationships between friends (Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures) and a love triangle (Cidade Baixa), which reminds us of films by one of its producers, Walter Salles. Orlando Vargas is rather reminiscent of the first movie by Juan Solanas: it tempted French actors (Carole Bouquet, Aurelien Recoing) to be in front of the cameras.

Perhaps the best Latin American film was Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures, a first movie by Marcelo Gomes. It is about the friendship between two men – a German who flees World War II (the action takes place in 1940 in Northeastern Brazil) and a villager. Both drive from one town to another, showing a film on the benefits of aspirin, and trying to sell it. The combination of genuine talent, good handling of the camera, the use of open spaces and a strong script, this road movie is a wonderful film, detached from minimalism and extroversion.

What really matters, what is truly important in this vision of Latin American cinema, are the storytellers. With their different approaches and styles, they have made this edition of Cannes a very special one.