Mercedes Moran

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Neruda Review


Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning poet Pablo Neruda in this inventive biopic, which playfully creates a cat-and-mouse adventure as it traces two years in which he was pursued by government officials who wanted to arrest him for his communist ideas. It's funny and emotional, and visually stunning as it criss-crosses Chile from the ocean to the ice-capped Andean peaks. And its originality makes it simply stunning.

In 1948, Pablo (Luis Gnecco) is a senator in Chile's parliament when right-wing President Gonzalez (the great Alfredo Castro) begins cracking down on communists. Pablo is famous for his movingly evocative poems, which champion the working classes even though he lives the life of a rock star. So he goes into hiding with his painter wife Delia (Mercedes Moran), abandoning their amazing art-filled home for a cramped apartment. As they wait for their handlers to figure a way to smuggle them out of the country to Europe, they learn that the government has assigned a top cop to track them down: Oscar (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a second-generation detective with serious daddy issues. He's also relentless in his pursuit, following Pablo and Delia around the country as Pablo leaves tantalising clues behind.

The film is structured like an extended chase sequence, as these two men try to outsmart each other. Along the way, the story traverses Chile both ideologically and geographically. Even with the quirky-arty tone, the perspective is remarkably internalised. The central idea is that these two men need each other to define who they are, fuelling each others' obsessions as they essentially create each others' stories. It's a complex idea that plays out with comedy and insight that's conveyed sharply by the two actors, who invest plenty of wit into the procedings.

Continue reading: Neruda Review

The Motorcycle Diaries Review

Very Good
Director Walter Salles (Central Station, Behind the Sun) regularly focuses on the inextricable, inscrutable relationship shared by man and his environment, and the result is that his films' hardscrabble Latin American settings are transformed into active participants in his intimate, humanistic dramas. This fascination with the natural world is most forcefully realized in The Motorcycle Diaries, which recounts the life-altering 1952 journey through South America undertaken by a young Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado. Imbued with the spirit of the dusty, arid open road and the continent's unassuming beauty and variety, this lovely-looking film nominally tracks the young Che's political and philosophical awakening as he comes into direct contact with the generous, friendly working-class men and women whom he would later champion as a communist revolutionary. Yet this mildly stirring, dramatically loosy-goosy tale of idealism being born is less effective as a Che Guevara back-story than as a gorgeous examination of the way our surroundings help shape us into who we are.

Adapted from both Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries and Granado's Traveling with Che Guevara by Jose Rivera, Salles' episodic film follows the intrepid travelers as they leave family and friends behind in Buenos Aires and head for the rural countryside riding their beat-up metallic steed dubbed, ironically, "The Mighty One." Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna), a 29-year-old biochemist, and Guevara (Gael García Bernal), a 23-year-old student one semester away from getting his medical degree, had planned on being gone for four months, but their eventual odyssey would last twice as long, cover 8,000 miles, and forever change Guevara's way of looking at his homeland's social and economic inequity. As portrayed by Bernal and De la Serna, Che and Alberto are yin and yang, with Guevara's candid, charitable demeanor standing in sharp contrast to the more gregarious, hedonistic Alberto, and Salles' film makes great use of their complementary personalities during the duo's humorous antics to procure room, board, and booty from local businessmen and comely beauties. Salles' focus on the duo's push-and-pull chemistry gives the early stages of their trip a lighthearted joyousness, and Eric Gautier's expressive, ethereal cinematography of the Peruvian Andes and Chilean desert makes Che and Alberto's somewhat uneventful story - not a whole lot happens during the film's first two-thirds - sparsely lyrical.

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The Holy Girl Review

Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl has its finger on something for sure, it's just not quite sure what to do with it. An Argentinean film of rare beauty and smoldering sensuality, it's set in an old, family-run hotel where a medical conference is taking place. The young teenage girl of the title, Amalia (Maria Alché) lives in the hotel and is possessed of an uncommonly emotional religious fervor. There's an old European spirit to her spiritual devotion, which is brought to an even higher pitch by the church study sessions she attends after choir (in a different age, you almost feel that she would have found a way to get martyred, and there would be a church consecrated in her memory). But Amalia has little idea how to vent her feelings, other than in prayer and at her best friend and semi-girlfriend Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg), who seems to share both Amalia's religious passion and her romantic yearnings.

However, both girls have other outlets for their feelings. Josefina has a boy whom she allows to come over and have sex with her, but only if she's turned away from him and he doesn't talk. Amalia's passions take a darker bent one day when she's out in the street with a crowd watching a man playing a spooky piece on a Theremin, when one of the doctors in town for the conference comes up behind her and rubs up against her suggestively. They don't say a word and she barely sees him as he scurries off. In what most would take as an unfortunate turn of events, this Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso) is the man whom Amalia's mother Helena (the impossibly beautiful Mercedes Morán) decides to spark up a relationship with. But Amalia seems to take this as a challenge, as she sets about trying to save Dr. Jano from his own darker impulses, a mission that takes on certain romantic shadings the more involved she gets.

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La Ciénaga Review

Reviews of Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel's second feature, 2004's The Holy Girl, tended toward the same complaint: the plot was unshaped, despite the presence of an obviously gifted director. Call it a sophomore slump, then, because Martel already had one great film under her belt at the time. Released on DVD domestically right around the time The Holy Girl hit American theaters, 2001's La Ciénaga is the most remarkable debut in recent experience.

The title translates as "the swamp," but it's also the name of the Argentinean city that serves as the film's setting. In this sweltering backwater, two branches of the same large family are put back in contact when a pair of accidents lands a member of each in the clinic run by "the gringo," a local doctor. One group - a married couple with innumerable children and their constantly-present friends - lives in the city, comfortably, but still scraping to get by. The other - an heiress, her drunken husband, their innumerable children, and an indigenous housekeeper named Isabel - pass the hours in a lavish but crumbling estate attained through a ridiculously complex series of gates near the mountains outside La Ciénaga. When the city family pays their relatives a visit at this estate, the repressed drama of La Ciénaga gets underway.

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The Argentina born Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (1928-67) was a revolutionary and a guerilla warrior for Castro, helping to sever Cuba's economic ties with the U.S. and to direct trade to the Communist bloc. In recent years, he has become a symbol for rebellion and an icon decorating numerous T-shirts, stickers and posters.

While in his 20s, Guevara, then known as Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, linked up with a pal, Alberto Granado, and embarked on an 8000-km trip across South America.

"The Motorcycle Diaries" visits this early part of Guevara's life. It could have been a brutal, intense, probing story of a fascinating personality, but unfortunately the film was directed by Oscar-winning soft-pedal Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles. This is the equivalent of getting Mike Nichols or Ron Howard to direct a biopic of Sid Vicious.

Continue reading: THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES Review

Mercedes Moran

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Mercedes Moran Movies

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Motorcycle Diaries Movie Review

The Motorcycle Diaries Movie Review

Director Walter Salles (Central Station, Behind the Sun) regularly focuses on the inextricable, inscrutable relationship...

The Holy Girl Movie Review

The Holy Girl Movie Review

Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl has its finger on something for sure, it's just not...



The Argentina born Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (1928-67) was a revolutionary and a guerilla warrior for...

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