Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Neruda: The Runaway Poet

By José Alberto Hermosillo

"Neruda" is the perfect antihero movie. It is a cinematic work of art and poetry, temper, and passion with a terrific cast!

In “Neruda,” we learned that Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda wrote his famous “Love Poems” in the same romantic way we saw in the Italian Academy Award winner “Il Postino.”

We didn’t know that Pablo also engraved in his “other poetry” the suffering of his people with an indelible mark for social justice. His poems were a patriotic manifesto against the Government of Chile, making him Public Enemy Number One.

The complex script of “Neruda” cleverly separates fiction from reality, intending to provoke controversy about Chile’s history.

Abruptly and awkwardly, the film opens with a vigorous discussion of Pablo Neruda’s bourgeoisie lifestyle and the accusations of treason from members of his own Communist Party in 1948.

While trying to defend himself, actor Luis Gnecco plays the not-so-charismatic persona of Pablo Neruda. He demystifies the figure of the poet from a Saint, Hero, or Demigod to a human being of flesh and bone.

More shockingly, the audience will meet a very raw, honest, and even grotesque Pablo Neruda, who thinks he is above everyone, including himself.

At one point in his life, he has to teach himself a valuable lesson: humility.

A few minutes into the film, investigator Oscar Peluchonneau, played by Gael Garcia Bernalbegins the narration of the persecution of the poet.

The beautiful cinematography by Sergio Armstrong("No," "The Club") starts its dramatic progression with the meanings of the colors. The palette of "Neruda" evolves beautifully. The contrast of color can be appreciated in the dark brown lobby of the Chilean Congress, in the city's bright yellow, and in the sepia tones of the countryside. Towards the climax, the film evolves into a deep blue, almost purple color of the port exteriors. The cinematography works well in the story's resolution, which is more lavish at the display of the bright-white light of the snow and the sharp colors of Neruda’s exile in Paris.

Neruda’s wife is an upper-class Argentine lady played by Mercedes Morán, who cleverly says, “Communists hate to work, but they love to burn down churches, and that makes them feel alive.”

The editing of the film could be more there. With its rough start, the film is hard to learn who will be the principal character, the investigator, or Pablo Neruda. 

With the writings, poems, and lyrics inspired by the poet, the film gets better as the script solidifies. The terrific group of actors makes their characters grow spiritually until the end.

“Chile has no freedom of speech---” was a declaration of war from Pablo to the Government. He went even further to qualify President Gonzalez Videla as a Traitor.

The film also refers to the concentration camps in Chile, where members of the Communist Party, students, and detractors were incarcerated.

Those were the “Desaparecidos,” the hundreds who vanished without a trace by the Government. Augusto Pinochet was in charge of one of those concentration camps and later became Chile’s Dictator.

“Neruda” has a “noir” style reflected during the chase between the desperate investigator and sneaky poet.

This biopic of the laureated Chilean poet has a similar approach to Michael Mann’s crime drama “Heat.” The difference is “Neruda,” a thinker-fugitive with no knowledge of his crime other than pursuing his entitlement to freedom of speech.

Pablo Larrain, photo José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2016

Academy Award nominee Director Pablo Larrain (“No,” “Tony Manero,” “Jackie,” “The Club”), during the AFI FEST presented by Audi 2016 in Los Angeles, said: “You cannot put Neruda in a box. You cannot describe him as smart, educated, and distinguished because he was someone larger-than-life.” 

Larrain added, “It’s complicated to put poetry in cinema. Poets describe our society as it is.”
Pablo Larrain, photo José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2016

Pablo and his brother, producer Juan de Dios Larrain, accomplished a magnificent film. 

With “Neruda” and “Jackie,” the Larrain brothers make magic on the screen. 
The Chilean official Academy Awards entry for the best foreign language is a trip to the beautiful geography of Chile, its ports and cities, and the Andes region of “Mapuche.”

In the last mêlée between Pablo and the investigator, he compares himself to Napoleon’s defeat in Waterloo.

Pablo Larrain, director, José Alberto Hermosillo film critic, Festival in LA ©2016

The film’s enchantment comes when Pablo writes letters and verses on how deeply every character is affected by his life and escape from Chile. 

In a final letter, Neruda describes real-life events about to happen. The meaning of those words would be more about if those situations were part of one of his novels. That includes the destiny of his faithful wife and the stubborn detective, who followed him to the “end of the world,” literally speaking.

The Nobel Prize Winner is the poet who enamored women and broke their hearts. 

Pablo Neruda brought down the walls of hate and abuse of power in Chile. He continued his fight with his writings from his exile in France and Italy, and his words gave his people Hope in one of the darkest times in Chile’s history. 

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“Colossal” Not Your Typical “Godzilla” Movie

25 Great Foreign Films that Did Not Get Distribution in US Theaters

Copyright © Festival in LA, 2016