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Some time ago I talked about Spanish cinema and about its quality in
terms of horror cinema. I said that it didn't live up to the hype of
what they do now in the United States. But I didn't talk about any
other genre, and I have explained how much I like films done in this
country. Filmmakers tend to make movies that are very personal.
Directors commit to such point that any movie seems to be their first
and, even when it is shown across the whole country, seems like an
Santi Amodeo's film, "Astronautas" ("Astronauts") starts as something difficult to comprehend, with a man walking alone in some place similar to a forest, then talking to some men who won't let him go and one minute later running away as a desperate animal that looks for a new life. The truth is that the man is indeed in the search of a new life. We learn he is named Daniel (called "Dani" by the people who know him) and that he is following a Decalogue, because he wants to desintoxicate himself. Now he is in an apartment, painting, cleaning, eating healthy With Dani alone in his new life, the movie reminds of "Cast Away", because of the situation and the work the main actor's performance needs. I'm comparing a Spanish actor named Nacho Novo with Tom Hanks, but well Hanks ended up in an island, when he was an office worker, and we can perfectly notice he has no clue about staying alive in these terms, so he has to make sacrifices for that objective; and makes friends with a ball, catches an eats fish, makes fires Hanks' performance is wonderful.
And although from another continent, Novo's performance is wonderful too. You realize how tiring is for him to paint the house and do all the things he has to, because you can tell he once lived in the streets and consumed drugs by just looking at his face. Now his only company are two dogs that follow him everywhere and the other axis of the story, a 15-year old named Laura (newcomer and natural Teresa Hurtado), who after a series of events, crashes in his housing. The good thing about the screenplay is that when it is extremely hard for him, Dani really wants to change; for good.
For example, Laura likes him but he knows he can't even think about getting involved with a girl her age; until he realizes she could be useful for some of the steps of the Decalogue. The thing with the Decalogue's steps is that we don't know them all, only Dani does. We find out what they say when the movie senses it convenient, and that's great, because we can imagine all of Dani's thoughts. Telling steps, or telling Dani's progress in his new phase would be ruining your experience of the movie, but I'll say that in one scene, Laura sees some things she shouldn't have, which hurries up some events.
Director Santi Amodeo masters everything incredibly; from the beginning sequence, with a lot of sarcasm and intelligence, to the "Buffalo 66"-esque ending. His camera moves a lot when lots or things are happening, and in other occasions, when everything is quiet, it stays still, changing shots, as a photo camera that takes pictures. There's a marvelous thing about the music, too. It is all original by Amodeo, who also wrote the film, and a band called Lavadora. It manages to reflect each part of the film with each song, and the camera makes everything go round and round when songs start playing. About the title, I believe it is "Astronauts" because of the men in space Dani drew in his Decalogue; or maybe because he is so far away from himself and the rest of the world, almost to become unrecognizable.
I saw this film at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.
Astronautas comes from Spanish director Santi Amodeo, who attended the film and gave a Q&A session after the film. The title of the movie refers to someone who may have all the comforts of modern life, but remains disconnected from his environment. Daniel (played by Nancho Novo) is such a person. A former heroin addict, Daniel is working through a decalogue, or 10-step recovery program. As part of his therapy, he is renovating his apartment, which in itself is a metaphor for the rebuilding of his life.
One day Daniel finds a teenage girl (Teresa Hurtado) waiting outside the door of his neighbour's abandoned apartment, who turns out to be his neighbour's younger sister. He gradually admits her into his life, and in the process, she affects and changes him.
Astronautas was not quite as comedic as I assumed from the festival guide description, but was rather a dramatic story with lighter moments and surreal animated segments seeded throughout. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, and it provided a different view of a subject tackled by another film at this year's festival, Clean, with Nick Nolte and Maggie Cheung. Both movies had at their core the story of a heroin addict trying to get their life back on track, but each told their tale in a unique way.
Some tidbits from the Q&A:
- This was his first solo directing effort. His two previous films, The Pilgrim Factor and Bancos were co-directed with Alberto Rodriguez.
- The animated interludes throughout the movie reflect Daniel's personal reality.
- The people with bowling balls for heads in the animated segments come from the animator on the film, who was asked by Amodeo to come up with a prototype of man.
- When Laura removes paper cutouts of bowling balls from a drawer in the apartment, it represents her taking out Daniel's life from the drawer into the real world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie isn't overwhelmingly good or anything. In fact, since I saw
it on the small screen yesterday I've been thinking I've seen this sort
of storyline many times over. There have also been moments when I
thought it was just an avenue for the artwork. However, *Astronautas*
is kind of like a complex curry. It's better the next day and your own
enjoyment is enhanced by other people talking about the ingredients.
The opening scenes are indeed confusing and disorienting, and importantly, make you want to know what is going on. Then we find out, and run through the first four steps of a ten-point plan for Dani to get clean. He is keen to appear 'normal' to himself and to others, as he says to the girl sitting on his neighbour's doorstep, "I'm just a normal guy going about his normal life." Dani looks far from normal, with his wild hair, in his goggles and white overalls, hammering holes in the wall of his flat, calling the cops with an obviously disconnected phone.
I get the feeling (well done, Arnodeo) that Dani has never known what it's like to be 'normal'; that he has always been an 'astronaut', even before his addiction. There are other astronauts in the story. Dani's former neighbour Andrés is off with the fairies, sitting on the edge of a bay somewhere. Andrés' sister Laura (it becomes apparent to me when she is seen in the shower, practising Personal Hygiene) is an ex-addict too. Laura, however, is much more confident in her non-conformism than Andrés or Daniel.
For me, the strong message of this film is that although Dani is alone, like all astronauts, he makes it where others fail. His doctor has forgotten him, Italiano has not managed to get off heroin after all, Andrés is never coming back to earth, and even Laura (Daniel's brief fellow traveler) vanishes one day. However, Laura has left him with a good foundation and we hope she has done enough to help Dani on the road to recovery.
Daniel is a 40-year-old man. He's drugged and has got a bad life. But
one day, he decides to start again and become a new man with a new
The ORDINARY LIFE is the lead topic of this movie. How can you be ORDINARY? Is dangerous to be ORDINARY? It's good to be ORDINARY? Daniel doesn't think so. He just plays his role in the real life, acting like somebody like me, like us.
One day, He finds out a little girl, played perfectly by the young Teresa Hurtado. She's the person who will take Daniel to the Earth. Just enjoy the movie. A good ACID comedy about to be ORDINARY and have got an ORDINARY life.
I think this movie could have been called ORDINARY PEOPLE.
Daniel is an ex-drug-addict that tries to rebuilt his life. To do it, he has written a Decalogue of actions to do. All seems to be fine, but the apparition of a fifteen-year-old girl in front of his door (she is the little sister of his ex-neighbor) will change his life a little, as he is forced to take care of her. At first sight is quite comical, but watching to it slowly, you'll be able to realize that it describes a hard life and it is more a drama. The acting is just correct, and the building of the characters is good bad nothing more. The story is maybe too much absurd and the chapters that it is divided makes it a little strange to follow, probably is too weird to result good, but it is not bad, just different.
This is okay, but not one of the better entries on "The Animation Show:
Volume 3" DVD. The story, as one other viewer puts it, needs to be
tightened up. It is too slow, although the argument could be made that
the slowness, along with the long gaps of silence, are what make this
animated short unique.
If you've seen the famous film, "2001: A Space Odyssey," you know about these long, silent shots.
Anyway, the only kick I got out of this ludicrous astronaut story was the ironic ending, where justice certainly was served! Otherwise, this was not high on the entertainment scale.
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