Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Neruda: The Runaway Poet

By José Alberto Hermosillo
"Neruda" is the perfect antihero movie. A cinematic work of art and poetry, temper, and passion. Terrific cast!

In "Neruda," we learned, 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.”

What we didn't know is 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 intricate 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, real, 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: how to be humble.

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

The beautiful cinematography starts its dramatic progression with colors and meanings. 

That palette of the film evolves. The contrast of color can be appreciated in the dark brown of the lobby of the Chilean Congress, then to the bright yellow of the city, and sepia of the countryside.

Towards the end, there is a deep blue, almost purple of the port exteriors. The cinematography is more lavish with 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 is not quite there. The film, with its rough start, is hard to learn who is going to 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 character grow all the way spiritually until the end.

“Chile has not freedom of speech---” those words were 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 the person in charge of one of those concentration camps. He later becomes Chile’s Dictator.
"Neruda" has a very "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 of 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 a 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 to the vast Andes region of “Mapuche.”

The last mêlée between Pablo and the investigator is comparing to Napoleon's 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 his 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 all the way to the “end of the world,” literally speaking.

The Nobel Prize Winner is the poet who not only enamored women but also 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. His words gave his people Hope in one of the darkest times in Chile's history. 

Related Articles:

“Endless Poetry” The Atypical Universe of Alejandro Jodorowsky

“Cezanne and I” An Extraordinary Journey of Art and Friendship

“Colossal” Not Your Typical “Godzilla” Movie

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

Copyright © Festival in LA, 2016