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The tempestuous love story between Fernando, an older man who has recently returned to his crime-ridden drug capitol hometown of Medellin, Colombia and the gun-happy 16-year-old assassin Alexis, who murders all too easily. When Alexis himself is fatally gunned down, grief-stricken Fernando hunts for his young lover's killer in the Medellin slums, but instead encounters Wilmar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Alexis. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
This is one of those movies that you're wary about, because the criticisms are so obvious. Yet I think this is something close to a minor masterpiece. This is quite rich material -- very literary, in a way -- and the invoking of Catholicism (and, for me, Genet) through the title is apt, for the way it delves into accepted perversions. At first I was wondering what the much-discussed shocking aspect of the film was, thinking perhaps it was the (would-be) sensuousness of this Latin boy-lover (the shared drink is not something you'd get in common fare), but it seems like it's more the violence that people react (or object) to. While it didn't upset me, I think the violence is interesting in two ways: one, the digital video makes the dispassionate killings have little impact, because it makes the film seem somewhat amateurish (with aid of the acting), like a genre film made on a shoestring budget; and two, the film as a whole is anti-dramatic -- for instance, when the revelation occurs, in a dramatized film it would be devastating: the truth of your lover revealed, and the swirl of emotions it creates; here, nothing -- so there is no cathartic violence (as in "The Godfather," for example), and it isn't lush. But it isn't brutal, either -- you don't get your nose rubbed in it, and I cherished that generosity to the audience.
The digital also helps keep the film grounded -- the only really attention-grabbing aspects of the film, as cinema, are the opening and closing framing of very beautiful music, and one nice over-the-wall camera move. It's like a cleverer "Man Bites Dog," in the sense that this *doesn't* draw attention to itself, that there is no winking or overt displays of cleverness. The film as a whole is subtle (at one point it feels like magic realism, even though we are told, I guess, that it's not), even though individual scenes are not (that the euthanizing of the dog is the only killing that has feeling is very heavy-handed). It's also incredibly easy to watch, and I think that must be due in part because the digital -- clear, crisp, and clean, with a smooth lucidity -- helps you seep into the film quicker, without any fuss. Indeed, without any film atmosphere at all. 9/10
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