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It's so good, it will send you right to his poetry.
jdesando20 December 2016
"If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life." Neruda

The Chilean Noble laureate Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco)is depicted in Pablo Larrain's Neruda, a fiction showing the poet-politician as heroic, profane, poetic, and fat. He's a stew that can seduce women and provoke presidents, a genius communist in the late 1940's who became a fugitive for joining the party.

The film is alternately serious about this leftist politician and writer pursued by fictional police detective Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal) and playful as he cavorts with strumpets to remind us of his vigorous friend, Picasso (Emilio Guttierrez Caba). Neruda is less the poet and more the champagne Communist.

Larrain's filming is poetic, too, full of lush, shadowy shots that reinforce the complex lyrical details of a poet on the run. Yet, this is not a biopic; rather it is an imaginative rendering in the poet's own spirit as it comes through in his poetry and Stalinist affections. A scene with a drag queen discussing how Neruda incites passion is all you need to know about the difference between Neruda's magical words and the lower order of his daily life.

Although Oscar's pursuit of Neruda smacks of Javert's obsession in Les Miserables, Bernal plays him as a serious policeman with a thirst for connection to Neruda. In large part, everyone who meets Neruda, even his fellow legislators when he is a senator, seems to be hypnotized by his words and his bravery.

Most of all the film does an exemplary job of depicting Neruda as a demigod whose very presence demands devotion and a shared passion for life and happiness only through the patient devotion to one's country and one's loves:

"Love is not about property, diamonds and gifts. It is about sharing your very self with the world around you." Neruda
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Subtly Sophisticated
necid-7096724 October 2016
This is a fictional plot around the very real character of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet who, during the 1940's, had also been a senator in the Chilean congress on behalf of the communist party. The film is set in 1948, when the authorities crack down on communists - a time that may be viewed as a chilling precursor to 1970's Pinochet - and the basic plot is about Neruda's escapes from the police, endeavors that force him all over Chile. Luis Gnecco as Neruda is fantastic and so is Mercedes Morán as Delia, Neruda's aristocratic wife. At one level, the film offer a troubling inquiry into the personality of this esteemed poet-intellectual-communist. He is an admired spokesperson for the workers and the downtrodden but he is also a hedonistic drunk and a spoiled womanizer; rough and gentle, strong and weak, Neruda's character and image keeps shifting, and it is to the credit of this film that it never for a moment tries to offer a solution to these complexities. In one memorable episode, a waitress asks Neruda, as he sits at a club-restaurant surrounded by his intellectual-hedonistic friends, suffused with alcohol, whether equality means that everyone will live like he does or whether it means that he, Neruda, will settle for less. I shall not disclose his response.

The camera-work covers a wide range of scenes, from film-noire urban settings to stunning snow covered terrains, all very precisely accompanied by period costumes, designs, motorcycles and horses. However the film aspires, and succeeds, to be by far more than a good period piece. Rather, it is a film about obsession. The psychological roots of this obsession are only hinted to, and this is a good thing too. And the obsessed is Gael García Bernal, playing the detective who relentlessly pursues Neruda. His performance is nothing short of stunning. As the film progresses, and it never rests for a moment, we gradually lose, alongside the characters in the film, any firm grip on reality. Just like in captivating poetic gestures, it becomes less and less clear what is real and what is fiction, what is an event and what is a fantasmatic representation of it, who is a character that actually acts and who is an imaginary ghost. And this is the film's most important achievement.
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a poem
Kirpianuscus27 August 2017
about art , politic, joy of life, Neruda and his universe, a hunt remembering the obsession of Javert, music of freedom and the Communism in Chilian version. a short sketch of Pinochet. admirable performances - especially Luis Gnecco - and a surprising Gael Garcia Bernal who knows use in the best manner the pieces of sketch defining his character. it is a poem not because it reflects, in subtle, seductive , eccentric, courageous manner a slice from Neruda life but because the significant result after the final credits is a special state. it could be emotion or impact with the new perspective about well known things, the state after a splendid show or the work with the pieces of a large puzzle. because the film is not exactly a biographic one. but a reflection about great, large universal themes in seductive manner.
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Am I the lead character?
ferguson-619 January 2017
Greetings again from the darkness. There is little offered by the history of the country of Chile that would lead you to believe that some laughs, giggles and chuckles are in store if you watch director Pablo Larrain's film about Pablo Neruda. But that's exactly what happens as we watch a police inspector hunt down the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet and Senator. While you would probably not describe it as an outright comedy, it's a serio-comedy that will educate (a little) and entertain (a lot).

The opening scene takes place in the men's room as a most serious Senate debate has flowed into an inappropriate locale. Apparently there is no relief during this time of relieving. It's here that Neruda's spoken words are as important as those he writes, and those spoken words lead directly to his need to go on the run. The poet/senator and his artist wife Delia del Carril become fugitives in their own country, and most of the film has them negotiating the Chilean underground. Set in 1948, three years after the end of WWII, a fascinating game of cat and mouse between hunter and hunted evolves. Director Larrain and writer Guillermo Calderon employ a generously creative license, and play quite fast and loose with facts resulting in a delightfully complex quasi-detective story.

Luis Gnecco plays Pablo Neruda, and actually looks very much like the Chilean icon who was influential, but also a bit prickly and burdened with his own sense of entitlement. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Inspector Peluchonneau, who is charged by the President to hunt down and capture the now enemy of the state. It's a wild chase that involves up to 300 policemen in support of the Inspector who romanticizes the chase. The filmmakers have more fun with traditional story structure as the Inspector's internal dialogue questions whether he is the lead character … an idea that would never be considered by the man he is chasing.

The film has a retro look and feel, and borders on farcical at times – the shots inside a moving car appear right out of the old 1940's detective movies. But the harsh realities of the times are never far removed. It could be a Picasso speech or a concentration camp director named Pinochet (soon to play a more important role in Chile). Neither the Inspector nor the fugitive make for a trustworthy narrator, but their different perspectives constantly provide us with more bits to consider.

Luis Gnecco, Gael Garcia Bernal and Mercedes Moran (as Delia del Carril) are all excellent in their roles, and the use of music is spot on … especially the score from Federico Justid (whose work I noted in Magallanes and The Secret in Their Eyes). Director Larrain also released the high profile Jackie (with Natalie Portman) over the holidays, and deserves to be discussed as one of the more creative filmmakers working today. It's pretty tough to name another contemporary film that blends an oddball inspector, a tough woman losing touch, and a narcissistic fugitive – all with bases in reality, while never settling for something as mundane as the truth.
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The Most Important Communist in the World
miriamday-3560520 July 2017
Neruda is a fabulous retelling of the poet Pablo Neruda's 1948 flight from Chile's fascist government. Playing fast and loose with historical event & cinematic tropes and conventions, director Pablo Larraín ("Jackie") invents an adversary for Neruda in the shape of the policeman leading the manhunt against him. Demanding the audience play detective too, the film blurs the line between real and imagined as both men seek to validate their own political position through their fantasies about the other. Playful and gorgeous to behold, it features 5 star performances from the three leads - including a brilliant comic turn from the ever-beautiful Gael García Bernal - and does not sentimentalise Neruda. But the truly revolutionary impact of his work is movingly articulated by an unexpected source - a transvestite singer in a brothel - as words are shown to have more power than force in this timely portrait of the most influential poet of the 20th century.
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Definitely not what was expected
Red_Identity9 April 2017
I had never seen a Pablo Larrain film until 2016's Jackie, which turned out to be a unique and singular directorial vision. Because of it I became a fan of him and perhaps that's why I expected more of the same free-form storytelling here. In that respect it was not what I expected, but the film is still very much distinct from what usual biopics are. I can understand why there seems to be so much frustration from some viewers, and while the film did lose me at times, the acting, cinematography, and fluid directing were enough to keep me more engaged as it went on. The finale is also really well done, and that final shot is very memorable.
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Neruda: very poetic but lacking in substance
ottelien-muller21 October 2016
Neruda is an ambitious and out-of-the-box kind of film that in a poetic way tries to combine fiction with nonfiction, saluting the work and wit of Neruda and other artists of his time. However, in my opinion the film does not quite move the way it is supposed to. Cinematographically, it is very well done, with a lot of care for the use of light and surrounding elements. The underscore engulfs the scenes with a sense of drama and vibrant energy, but this is also where it goes wrong: the scenes themselves, do not bring the kind of energy and drama to the screen one might expect from this kind of tale. The minimalism and introvert approach to the acting in Neruda is perhaps somewhat too subtle, reversing the characters to almost two-dimensional beings that lack the personality or warmth that is needed to draw the viewer in. The script and the way some dialogues are cut and played out in different rooms confirm that ultimately Neruda's attempt to escape is a long poem on its own. Only, unfortunately, it is a bit too long and too cold to truly sink in.
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A Crafty Piece of Political Filmmaking
bkrauser-81-31106421 August 2017
"You are a work of fiction." The words of femme fatale Delia del Carril (Moran) hits us with head-cocking absurdity. The noble wife says what she says matter of factly; as if observing the glorious excesses of a dime novel or glancing at a Grecian urn. Her criticism is pointed at Oscar Peluchonneau (Bernal), a Prefect tasked with bringing the Chilean Communist poet Pablo Neruda (Gnecco) to justice. The crime in his eyes - treason. The crime in the eyes of the average Chilean - doing to his readers what the spring does to cherry blossoms.

The iconoclastic life of Pablo Neruda is seen through the bile- filled gaze of Investigator Peluchonneau, whose hatred for communists is eclipsed only by a fear of being a supporting character in his own story. Upon President Videla's (Castro) orders, Peluchonneau is to find and arrest Neruda. Yet as a .22 caliber mind in a .357 magnum world, Peluchonneau finds the poet always at arm's length. Despite being a wanted criminal, Neruda walks about in relative safety through the streets of Santiago and Valparaiso, connecting with all those he meets with uncommon sincerity. Pelunchonneau envies him, he hates him, though he's fascinated by him too.

The world of Neruda is a manufactured but playful one. It's a formal mix of noir, surrealism and melodrama connected to its fiery political center like a figure clinging to its ominous shadow. Peluchonneau's dogged pursuit of the libertine poet is punctuated by steely-eyed rides through the Andes, leaning, mate drinking poses in the dusk and Pink Panther (1963) levels of happenstance and near misses. It sometimes feels like he's even in on the ruse, always finding time to give the camera a rube-like smirk. As if to taunt him, Neruda leaves behind detective novels for the indentured gumshoe which he reads not to find clues but for leisure.

Neruda isn't just satisfied with giving its audience genre thrills and a neo-classicalist milieu however. Ancillary plot details pop out of the celluloid like thickets of antimetabole. The elliptical editing and change of viewpoint coaxes the audience to really look at the screen and analyze what they're seeing. Are we watching reality or are we watching someone's supposed ideal of reality? And whose ideal are we really seeing? Add to that emotional crescendos in a brothel and haughty political demagoguery in a vast senate bathroom and you got yourself a movie stitched and laced with absurdity.

Yet Neruda, for all its high-minded fun isn't a perfect film. The coarse tonal shifts feel purposeful a lot of the time though I doubt they all managed to hit their targets. Two thirds of the way through, a Communist laundress asks in a stupor if "when the revolution comes, will we all be like you, or will we all be like me?" Veiled in Neruda's answer is sharp social commentary that collides uncomfortably with the intention of the film like an uncalled for Augusto Pinochet cameo. Additionally, while Neruda is far more cerebral than the similar Il Postino (1994), it doesn't quite register on an emotional level. A large oversight considering this is a film about a poet.

Overall Neruda is a handsome, literate and crafty film that is unafraid to take bold risks with its real-life subject. It has an uncommon clarity of thought that shines through its intimate tale and while it may be accused by some as stuffy, the story and direction by Pablo Larrain can't help but give it color.
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A Modern Classic
morrishouse-799047 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
You have your conventional biopics, movies like The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, which have a self-inflated poignance that makes dumb, popcorn-shoving moviegoers feel like intellectuals. On the other hand, you have your other kind of biopics, like Patton and Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, that not only tell the story of the man but also analyze his motives, psyche, and humanistic qualities. Neruda is the most recent in this prestigious canon of unconventional biographies; a well versed exercise in classic filmmaking with a modern spin. It succeeds at being auteuristic, old-fashioned, and naturalistically moving. The lead characters (expertly brought back to life by Bernal and Gnecco), connect to each other in ghostly, figurative telekinesis, as if the spirit of the human soul binds them metaphysically. Pablo Larrain, the film's director, treats the plot with superior surveillance, making sure each detail is at its maximum clarity. The script, which unavoidably brings to mind Costa-Gavras's earliest work, breaks many of the genre's clichés without losing sight of its poetically haunting story. And, lastly, I must call kudos to the film's composer, who has written a soundtrack in the tradition of Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith. See this film. Experience it.
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The Hunt for Red Neruda
Horst_In_Translation5 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Neruda" is a Chilean Spanish-language film from 2016 directed by Pablo Larraín and written by Guillermo Calderón, not the first collaboration by this duo. It runs for 105 minutes roughly and focuses on the post-WWII years in writer Pablo Neruda's life. Do not be fooled by the title here: This is not a biopic and this is maybe also the film's biggest problem. Of course, you need to use an actor like Gael Garcia Bernal if you have him at your disposal, but he really took away from the film here in terms of quality and with this I am not talking about the performance, but about his character in general. I really would have liked this film to focus exclusively on Neruda, but many times you have a feeling that he just plays second fiddle to GGB's character here. The latter is a police officer in charge of finding Neruda and the longer the film goes, the more mysteriously it all becomes. Is he just a figment of Neruda's imagination? Is he a character from one of Neruda's works? Is he an actual police officer? Is it Neruda himself? There is no definite response to any of these questions. But the occasionally pretentious voice-over coming from Óscar (that's his name) as well as the fact that Bernal is credited first makes obvious that Neruda is just means to the story and his co-lead here, a tool basically, but not the man in charge, even if the police officer's actions are all consequences of Neruda's.

I personally would have preferred this film to be entirely about Neruda or at least to keep it a more factual, more thrilling tale of one character ruthlessly chasing the other. More realism would have helped. instead questions arise like why does he not have any officers under him that help him. Why is he always chasing him like a lone wolf? Or why does he seem to die at the end and then magically reappears again. These may all be symbolisms or metaphors, but it's mostly over the top and the link to realistic events gets lost inevitably the longer the film goes. This is a shame as the subject of Neruda could have made for a really great film. From what we see in here, the character is very interesting, as a politician as well as writer. Now we have to wait probably another decade till we get a new Neruda film and maybe that one will be as weak as this one here too. I think the idea of Óscar having doubts about his own worth and how he needs to be an artist too to take down Neruda, not just a supporting player was a really nice one and the entire film and protagonist's inner conflict could have been about this all the time. Instead the script feels lost and lacking focus on more occasions than one. It also shows how little awards recognition Gnecco received for such a baity character that it is all about GGB, even if he didn't receive that much either. I think all the consideration for this film in foreign language categories (also at the Golden Globes) feels very exaggerated. It is Larraín's weaker 2016 film compared to the Oscar-nominated "Jackie" and also compared to "No". I have to give "Neruda" a thumbs-down and say the Academy got it right in not nominating Chile's submission this year, also not including it among the final nine. Not recommended and you can certainly say this is "Catch Me If You Can" gone wrong because it did not try to tell a memorable story, but be way too artistic for its own good.
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The hound from Hell pursues a poet
jakob1317 December 2016
Like the poetry of Neruda, Pablo Larrain's film tells the story of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda during his years underground before he made his way to Argentina then to Paris. The narrative has a variety of styles: surreal, a political manifesto, autobiography and passionate love poems. Neruda embraced Communism, marked as he was by the Spanish Civil War that only the Soviet Union supported the democratic Republic that Franco and his generals overthrow during three years of violence. The film opens in 1948: Neruda is a senator and the Communist Party has strength among workers and peasants, intellectual and students, allies among the bourgois as well. And it hopes that soon it would be the government. Cut to 1948, the year of the beginning of the Cold War. The CPs in Italy and France met defeat at the voting booth. A 'coup' in Czechoslovakia brought the communists to power. Greece is in Civil War, and the fear of triumphant Soviet Communism has sent a shiver up and down the spine of North, Central and South America. Gonzales Videla outlawed the CP of Chile. Those like Neruda went underground; the less fortunate were rounded up, sent to prison, one governed by Pinochet and camps; still other were tortured, assassinated and became 'non-citizens', depriving them of a livelihood. And it is in this watershed of Chilean history, Larrain situates his film. We see Neruda, wonderfully embodied by Luis Gnecco, physically and magically in the way he uses language. as a devotee of luxury and sensual vices; he finds pleasure in bordellos, where fancy imagines a transgendered man sings his poems. And in the fleshpots, awash in champagne, you see the magnetic personality of Neruda. He finds a common thread of humanity and offers a message of class and human equality that is a fundamental truth of communism. The full measure of Neruda as a beacon of the masses is the oblique reference to the power of the Word; Neruda read in 1945 to 100.000 in Brazil his poetry that entranced the audience. In Chile, he addressed 10.000s and his poetry was read and sung by workers, by the common people. Of course his poetry speaks to them, but furthermore, he spoke to them of their condition, hopes and dreams and a common humanity that made Neruda dangerous to the government. An inspector played with understate by Gael Garcia Bernal. He is Oscar Peluchonneau, the illegitimate son of the creator of the national police. A child of the whore house, born with a venereal disease, says he. He is a personage who practices self-denial and austerities; he denies worldly pleasures and comforts. Tracking Neruda, he is like the Hound in Francis Thompson's poem. He has a talent for pursuing Neruda; he's intuitively keen, but he is no match for Neruda, who, contrary to Party disciple, roams the streets, visits prostitutes, to the existential pain of his minders. And as Neruda goes from hidden houses, he leaves a book of poetry for Peluchonneu, who diligently reads the poems. They don't chame him, only strengthens his resolve to capture Neruda; the capture of the poet would wash him of his low birth and to him worthy of a father who never really knew of his son. The camera takes us from cities to the Andes; it is well controlled and wonderfully filmed. We may be bewitched by Neruda the poet, and if we know something of Chilean history, a indebted morally or ethically by his politics. (With the rise of Trump, the film may also speak to what an authoritarian would do to those who don't hold his orthodox radical views.)
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It's hard to explain, but these movie is a poem.
bola_de_pu18 September 2017
Just mesmerizing. Hard to explain, like the title of these review says, the writers of these masterpiece has one job and they can't do it better. It's like the vast majority of the dialogues in these movie carried their own beauty, there's no words that describe the impact of the script if you don't see the movie. The setting/scenario was amazing, the soundtrack 5 stars, and the cast, oh my, Luis Gnecco on his portrayal of Neruda was top notch and Garcia Bernal with another strong performance help his case to be one of the best latinamericans actors in Hollywood in 21th Century.The movie has a slow pace, but that pace help the purpose of the movie and the dialogues because facilitates to the common eye the way yo identify herself with Neruda and Peluchonneau. If you're a fan of latinamerican movies, I recommend these one. Probably one of the best latinamerican movies of the decade and with a lot of phrases to remember.
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Heavy weight account of Pablo Neruda
Mozjoukine13 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Pablo Larain's NERUDA is a prestige offering of the Chilean film industry, from the star and director of NO. It has a walk-ons by Augusto Pinochet and Pablo Picasso, contains narration with poetic citations ("a river of buried tigers") a vigorous orgy and runs to Edvard Grieg grinding away on the track. Significance is writ large upon it.

Rather than a conventional biography it turns out to be an imagined account of the famous poet's period as a Communist Senator in 1948 Chile at the time his party was banned and of his life in hiding and escape on horseback to Argentina. The central drive of the piece is not history but an invented pursuit by philosophizing, base born police inspector barely recognizable Gael García Bernal after Luis Gnecco's arrogant Neruda. Oh no - not Javet and Valjean again! In fact they prove to be on another tack and the film becomes Bernal's quest for justification though he's told he's only a bit player in his own life the way Kirk Douglas puts down Denis Byrd in Brian de Palma's HOME MOVIES. Now if that sounds like a lowering of the tone, you'd be right.

There are many imposing elements to the film - the excellent performances, the striking wide angle anamorphic photography that doesn't gel the windows to stop light swamping dim interiors, the commentary on the tensions in the Latin American scene where government authority dwindles as the pursuit moves further from the center, the examination of Party Discipline and it's defiance. These contribute a number of attention getting scenes, as with the montage of readings of the furtively mailed poems to cheering groups of workers and admirers, the waitress since she was eleven who demands of boozing Neruda whether socialist equality will mean they all become like her or like him, to have him assure her that it means everybody gets to eat in bed, his first antagonistic wife's broadcast turning into a disaster for the state, when she praises him despite having a writ against him for thousands of dollars or Bernal's scene with the transvestite entertainer. The ambivalence of Gnecco's relationships with the people sheltering him in his concealment dominates.

While it's by no means a write off, this one sinks under the weight of it's pretensions. Despite the film's many excellences, it drags at a hundred plus minutes and the compared fates of the two leads, pointed by Bernal's narration from the grave, doesn't carry the revelation that the makers want it to.

I preferred the Pablo Neuda of IL POSTINO.
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An unexpected, but welcome, glimpse at a time, place and perspective unfamiliar to most of us.
dickmckinlay7 March 2017
I agree with "jakob13" in his review of this fascinating movie. But I believe that it warrants more historical perspective, only hinted at in the movie. The influence of the US in enforcing its post-war anti- communist zeal throughout the Americas is mentioned, but not reinforced. The rise of Pinochet (also referenced in passing) is barely revealed.

On balance, though, I'm not sure how much this matters, since the thrust of the movie is not historical recreation, but rather, the revelation of those aspects of character and consciousness that guide poet and public, hunter and hunted in extraordinarily threatening times.
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not enough food for thoughts, not enough poetry to sail away
qeter31 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Seen at the Viennale 2016: every year there is a surprise movie. And we went for that. And it was Neruda. I wonder whether the shown digital copy was compressed (screening was in Gartenbaukino in Vienna). The colors were colorless and the images were blurred. The movie itself very slow. The getaway of communist and poet Neruda out of Chile is shown. It is told in poor poetic words and voice by his chaser, a policeman. It is not clear whether this policeman is just a fiction by Neruda or the real chaser. After few minutes in the movie it is clear that the hunt will fill the movie time and that the policeman will not catch Neruda. Only how the end will be arranged is not clear. That meant, sitting through a powerless movie, waiting for the final 5 minutes...
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theta3020 April 2017
I think the movie is a parable of Chile's or Latin America's modern tragic history. Dictatorships of any sort ravaged the continent for some decades. Artists such as Neruda suffered under these regimes. Remember Chilean's Victor Jara executed on a stadium? I think Chileans viewers will find clues in the movie that other ones would miss.

Oscar Pelochonneau represents a typical instrument of these dictatorships: the military/cop/bureaucrat/judge who executes the unjust sentences. Even if he reads Neruda's poetry, he does not understand it; he is under the weight of his mediocrity. Moreover, he despises the rebels-in a scene we see how he calls them scums; and this shows his ignorance.

Neruda represents then the creator, the artist whose words transcend historical time-his words survive the temporary regimes and give hope to those who suffer. In this sense, in a surprising act, we see how Neruda's friends give away clues to where he might be - he can't be apprehended because his creation cannot be apprehended, so we might just well tell you where he is. Also, in this sense, even his follower and what he represents is an idea that the writers of age imagined already.

Common in Latin America literature and cinema (eg Madeinusa, Jauja), we encounter a mysterious, lawless, remote and harsh territory. In these territories one uninitiated foreigner might experience transformation and sometimes redemption. Now, we have Oscar following Neruda in such a territory at the country border. We may expect that after his experience here, the typical Oscar will raise somewhere to be a better person.

Perhaps due to the focus on the above themes and the pursuing story, there is a smaller emphasis on the actual poetry or on his socialist views. It's interesting to glimpse into the beginnings of socialist attempts in Chile. The movie raises other questions-say, how a bourgeois as Neruda is after all, is understanding the lower class - and he is confronted about this by a peasant. Other question: up to what point you risk your freedom to help him escape?
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Actors perfectly well executed
piterjuan8 March 2017
It is very difficult to bring to the screen a person like Neruda, but my admiration for Larraín is much greater after seeing this film. Actors perfectly well executed. It is noticeable that there is a very large production behind. Gael Garcia Vernal is getting better every day as an actor. Congratulations to all, Latin pride
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Dark and soulful poetry
howard.schumann15 January 2017
"I am convinced there will be mutual understanding among human beings . . . in spite of all the suffering, the blood, the broken glass" - Pablo Neruda, Memoirs If the genre known as bio-pic has evolved into a predictable linear account of a well-known person's life, Chilean director Pablo Larraín has turned the genre on its head in Neruda, his impressionist and surreal examination of one year in the life of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Written by Guillermo Calderón, the film continues Larrain's exploration of recent Chilean history, following on the heels of "Tony Manero" (2008), "Post Mortem" (2010), and "No" (2012), works concerned with the effects of U.S.-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet. Neruda centers on the period 1948-49 after President Gonzalez Videla (Alberto Castro, "The Club") banned communism from Chile and issued a warrant for Neruda's arrest after he publicly protested the government's imprisonment of Communist mine workers.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, Neruda, called "the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language" by author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, was a member of the Chilean Communist Party and served as a Senator as well as in several diplomatic posts. Luis Gnecco ("Much Ado About Nothing") portrays Neruda as a corpulent middle-aged man full of contradictions – hero of the Communist working class and an admirer of Joseph Stalin, an outspoken enemy of the state and a man of exuberance and love of life, given to attending orgies, hanging out in brothels, and reciting his poetry to prostitutes and drag queens. In one telling scene, Neruda is dressed up as Lawrence of Arabia, reciting "Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines," one of his most popular poems.

In the film's flamboyant opening, attacks on Neruda by his colleagues in the Senate are delivered in a spacious Senate chamber which doubles as a men's bathroom, suggesting that the rest of the film should not be taken literally. Referred to as "Emperor Caligula," he is told that "Communists hate to work. They'd rather burn churches. It makes them feel alive," Neruda defiantly fends off attacks. The film is narrated by a disembodied voice that we later learn is that of mustachioed police detective Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal, "No"), the son of a prostitute, ordered by his superiors to apprehend Neruda and humiliate him. As the poet moves around with the assistance of Communist friends, he leaves behind pulp detective novels for Oscar to find, a mocking trail of clues that somehow forge an unspoken bond between the hunter and the hunted.

As it unfolds, the film is as much about the policeman as it is about Neruda, both of whose lives are linked by a dark and soulful poetry. Neruda's wife, Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán, "Chiametemi Francesco – Il Papa della gente"), tells the inspector that he exists solely as a supporting character in one of Pablo's stories: "He created you as the guard of an imaginary border. He thinks about you thinking about him." This does not sit well with Oscar who pictures himself as a central character in the nation's history, not playing a secondary role in a fictional story. Hidden for months in the basement of a house in Valparaiso, Pablo is turned back when he and his wife attempt to cross the border into Argentina because his name does not match the birth name on his passport, Ricardo Reyes Basoalto.

Protected by friends from the pursuing police, the couple is forced to move into a small apartment where Delia, a well-to-do Argentinean, complains about having to clean. When someone gives her rubber gloves; she asserts that, "hygiene is a bourgeois value." Though confined under the watchful eye of Jara (Michael Silva), a Communist Party member who becomes one of Neruda's primary handlers, Neruda still manages to sneak out to a brothel dressed as a priest and presents himself in drag at a later visit after Peluchonneau searches the premises in vain. To put events in context, Larraín shows us leftists being rounded up and sent to a prison camp run by a young military officer named Augusto Pinochet. There is also a memorable scene in which Neruda dresses in a white suit and hat pretending to be a Central American visitor.

Neruda shows his connection to ordinary Chileans as he hugs a street beggar and gives her his white jacket and also reassures a hotel maid that the revolution will end her long hours of hard work and low pay. The final phase of the film is the most revealing as Neruda attempts to escape from Chile on horseback over a mountain pass in the Andes near Maihue Lake into Argentina. Still being pursued on motorcycle by the determined, almost comical, police inspector, whose love-hate relationship with his prey has become obsessive, Neruda must call upon all of his inner resources to keep going to freedom. As Oscar's motorcycle runs out of gas, the illusion that will die on the mountain is reborn as poetic truth.
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Full of poetry
zicteban5 July 2017
Inspired and inspiring movie, a steady wave flowing emotions and feelings. No real action since moments are beautifully described by a touching voice, the one of the inspector running after Neruda. It is obviously done on purpose, aiming at cutting the only impact of the instant and enlightening it in a superior metaphysical environment. This movie also brings us in many places in Chile and thus paints a awesome picture of this country landscape, like a painting masterpiece. Pretty impressive movie. Congratulations and thanks for this lesson of poetry.
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Argemaluco13 March 2017
My knowledge about author Pablo Neruda was limited to a book of poems I read as a teenager. So, due to my little experience with his work, the film Neruda was a revelation from the beginning to the end, illustrating me about the "secret life" of the famous writer and his life as a political dissident. Despite that unexpected premise, screenwriter Guillermo Calderón conciliates Senator Neruda with artist Neruda, making the film begin as a political thriller which gradually becomes a dreamlike poem in order to satisfactorily conclude on a simultaneously magical and realistic ending. Calderón's best trick is changing the main character without fracturing the narrative; the first half is focused on the ideological evolution from Neruda, one of the few Senators who were against the influence the United States was making over the President of Chile; then, his political downfall comes, and the narrative focus switches to Óscar Peluchonneau, a relentless policeman who chases him, displaying his turbulent psychology and "daddy issues" which motivated his mission, as well as the strange connection he develops with his prey. That's a precarious balance which is very well handled by Calderón and director Pablo Larraín, supported by the excellent performances from Luis Gnecco and Gael García Bernal as Neruda and Peluchonneau (respectively). The quantity and variety of themes examined in Neruda defy the simple structure of any biopic; however, the result was satisfactorily complex and ambitious, without losing the didactic qualities of a good History lesson (whose fidelity regarding the true events I'm not interested in finding out). In conclusion, Neruda is a brilliant film, and a fascinating look into the hidden side of a man whose legacy transcends the poetry for which he's remembered. I just wish all the biopics to be as creative and intelligent as this one (yes, starting by the recent Jackie, also directed by Larraín).
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masonfisk5 July 2018
Naruda is a segment of the great poet's life when he was accused of communism by the government & needed to flee. In pursuit of him, a loyal officer of the law tracks his prey, in what amounts to a person living vicariously through another's, we're meant to glean insight into the man's thoughts & why he's at odds w/the ruling class. Ultimately as presented we have 2 modes of film in conflict w/each other. Whereby the biopic is sorely lacking since we only focus on a glimpse of his life & the procedural, the hunter who tries to imprint his quarry's worldview onto himself to better acquire his target. Handsomely produced & the second film from Pablo Larrain during the same year (!) as Jackie, this uneven film does have some merit.
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Celebrity vs cop
sergelamarche28 May 2018
In a surreal film, Neruda is famous but hounded for his support of the communists. It is a case of top underground chased by imagined hound inspector. The love for Neruda seems real and fueled by the hatred or the facists leaders, abiding by the USA. Lyrical and surreal. Funny at times.
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Neruda goes underground: "Poems of rage and political uncertainty"
paul-allaer26 February 2017
"Neruda" (2016 release from Chile; 107 min.) is a movie about the hunt for Communist activist, poet and Senator Pablo Neruda in 1948. As the movie opens, we see Neruda in an argument with another Chilean Senator after Neruda allegedly has insulted Chilean President Gabriele Gonzalez. It's not long before word reaches Neruda that he is about to be impeached, and he has no choice but to go underground and hide. The President appoint a special prosecutor, Oscar Peluchonneau, "to catch Neruda and to humiliate him", in the President's words. At this point we are less than 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is another movie from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, whose other film, "Jackie" starring Natalie Portman, is still in the theaters. Before that, Larrain brought us another political movie, the Oscar-nominated "No". Here Larrain takes a look at the year or so that Neruda, "the most important Communist in the world" someone comments, goes into hiding while the Communist Party is being outlawed in Chile. In that sense, this is NOT a bio-pic about Pablo Neruda: we do not get any background as to how Neruda became so popular or what formed his political ideas or his poetry. The movie comes to us with a voice over from the special prosecutor Oscar Peluchonneau, as he gives his perspective on Neruda. This is quite helpful actually, as we understand better what Neruda was able to accomplish with his writing: they were not just poems of love, but many struggling people recognized themselves in these writing, and hence they became "poems of rage and political uncertainty". Kudos to Louis Gnecco for his performance as Neruda (not to mention the uncanny physical resemblance). Last but not least, the movie's photography is pure eye-candy and in a way the movie is unintentionally one long tourist ad for Chile (in particular the parts that play out in southern Chile).

"Neruda" premiered to universal acclaim at last year's Cannes Film Festival. It finally opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati this weekend. The Sunday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended nicely, I am happy to report. How this movie did not get nominated for the Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar is beyond me. (There is a good reason why "Neruda" currently holds a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) All that aside, if you are in the mood for an intelligent politically flavored movie about one of Chile's best known politicians and poets, you cannot go wrong with this, be it in the theater, on Amazon Instant Video or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Neruda" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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too much artistic
SnoopyStyle25 December 2017
In post war Chile, Communist poet Senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) enrages the political establishment. He decides to go into hiding as Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) leads a large police dragnet to arrest him. Soon, anti-communist repression takes hold in the country and many are imprisoned.

This has too much of an artistic flair. I get the connection with a poet protagonist. I would like to understand the political climate at the beginning. Neruda talks about strikes. It would be helpful to see more of the anti-union brutality. It would set the stage for his initial escape. Not everybody knows the history or even who Augusto Pinochet is. I like the Captain Ahab aspect of Peluchonneau. It would be good to have less artistic flair. I want less literary exposition and more intense thrills. I like the turn as the political roundups take its toll and the darker character descend. There is a more intense take on this story but I'm not completely opposed to this artistic rendering.
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Larraín's deconstruction-inflected modus operandi brings a wheeze of freshness in the time-worn biopic genre
lasttimeisaw1 April 2018
Pablo Larraín's biopic about Chilean Nobel-winning poet, diplomat and politician Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) (Gnecco), revolves around his at-large cat-and-mouse game with a relentless but allegedly made-up police officer Oscar Peluchonneau (Bernal) closely tailing him during the persecution of Communists issued by the Janus-faced President Gabriel González Videla (Castro) in 1948.

Right out of the box, Larraín archly lays bare his derogative slant toward Videla's government by showing a then-Senator Neruda wrangle with others in the Parliament's resplendent bathroom, before lends him a rodomontading stage of poem recitation during a private gathering, and later doesn't hold back in sending him into a brothel for debauchery, further on, venting barbs to his loyal helpmate Delia del Carril (an age-defying Morán), whom he must leave behind in the third act when heading to the Andes mountains where he will secretly escape to Argentina on horseback. On balance, Larraín's view of Neruda is a solid composite of varying complexities, a larger-than-life character exuding a ghost of mystique, also on the strength of Luis Gnecco's fine performance.

But essentially the film is a meta-fictional dyad of Neruda and Oscar, it is the latter's self-inspecting voice-over traverses the entire running time and whose inexorable pursuance is futile in foresight but, by virtue of Larraín's curve-ball construct of obfuscating the boundary between fiction and non-fiction, Oscar's quest of finding his identity (by the time of the third act, the predator-and-prey pursuit is saliently evolved into a poetic voyage), in fact strikes a more affecting chord with audience by being sublimated into a sort of existential mulling over an individual's congenital frailty: blindly overreaching oneself to compensate for (mostly self-induced) one's deficiency in self-esteem. Gael García Bernal effectively engineers Oscar's painful self-sacrifice with an almost pilgrim-like piety and gravitas.

On the one hand, Larraín's innovative deconstruction-inflected modus operandi brings a wheeze of freshness in the time-worn biopic genre (so is his JACKIE 2016), but on the other hand, it is still an inchoate approach that overly relies on a director's artistic propensity, in this instance, the whole package of NERUDA's saturated, purple-bluish hue, starkly freewheeling camera movement, and a disconcerted accompanying score could not be every cinephile's cuppa, notwithstanding how stimulating it might sound on paper.
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