In the late 19th and early 20th century, working conditions in Chile are abysmal. The workers of Marusia go on a strike, but the owners and the government decide to quell the mutiny, in blood if necessary.
Gian Maria Volonté,
A fine work from the great filmmaker Littin, though not his best
I had the good fortune to see this film in the company of the director Miguel Littin at the Dubai Film Festival and later talk to him (through his interpreter, his daughter, who produced the film). I had met him as a journalist two decades earlier when he served on the jury of the International Film Festival of India at New Delhi in 1984.
Littin is a legend. Nobel Prize winner for Literature Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote a brilliant book about Littin returning incognito to Chile from exile to film the dark days of the Pinochet regime. That documentary film was made and won recognition at Venice. Littin is Chilean and a third generation Palestinian immigrant. The film "The Last Moon" is a result of this famous director trying to go back to his roots and analyze the reasons for the present turmoil in Palestine and Israel. The film states that many Palestinians, like Littin's grandfather, migrated to Chile early in the 20th century.
The "The last moon" was shot in Palestine with an international cast with Israeli helicopters full of soldiers hovering overhead to ensure the crew was not up to mischief, according to Littin.
Now "The Last Moon" is a fictional story of the friendship that develops between an Arab Palestinian Christian and a Chilean Jew in the present West Bank sometime close to the First World War. The Jew buys the almost barren land from the Palestinian to build a two storied house from the rocks that strew the landscape. While the Jew knows what he wants to build, it is only the native capability of the Arab that can actually build it. (The Arabs are truly gifted in this craft). There are humorous shots that show the Jew being superior, when it comes to calculations and measurements. The film builds on this unusual bond that develops between the two. Like a Shakespearean tragedy, a beautiful Jewess enters the story--she has been shot by the Turks (we are not told why) and is seriously wounded. The Christian Arabs tend to her wounds until she is well enough to return to her people. But this lady proves that she can sow the seeds of hate between her people and the people who had once saved her life, just because her village was bombed by the Arabs many years later... And friends find barbed wire separating them.
Littin has stepped in this film on fresh ground--comedy that criss-crosses tragedy. Those of us who saw his brilliant "Jackal of Nahueltoro" in black and white would recall a director at home with tragedy and considerable symbolism--probably this was what made Marquez appreciate and admire him. The tragedy in "The Last Moon" is diluted, the symbolism of the beautiful Jewish woman (played by the beautiful Italian actress Francisca Merino) is muted.. I asked Littin on this after the screening and he and his daughter were surprised that I noticed it. He said the ancient Greeks knew that tragedy and comedy are inseparable as in life.
Where does the "The last moon" stand in respect to his previous work? I feel "The Jackal of Nahueltoro" is his finest work, followed by "Alcino and the Condor"--a film on Nicaragua's war years seen through the eyes of a 10-year old boy. "The last moon" does not belong to the same league, but it introduces new facets of Littin--a man who can look at tragedy with a twinkle in the eye--helped by his son Miguel Joan Littin as an able cameraman. One fact was evident at the Dubai screening: all the Chileans in the auditorium still consider him a national hero and treasure!
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