Monday, January 20, 2020

My Hindu Friend; Hector Babenco's Testament to Posterity

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“My Hindu Friend” is elegant and cinematic celebration of life at the end of one man's journey with gratifying visuals. Hector Babenco last film, is a conciliatory testimony with his work, friends, and close ones, with a high sense of respect.

The insightful reflection about the life and death of one of the most beloved Brazilian-Argentinean directors is immersive, and goes beyond the bounds of a delirious reality.

Willem Dafoe’s execution is a tour de force. He plays the director's life, who is on a quest for redemption, exceptionally. If you think Antonio Banderas in his Oscar-worthy characterization of Pedro Almodovar in “Pain and Glory” was remarkable, the performance of Willem Dafoe portraying Hector Babenco is fascinating, hypnotic.

My Hindu Friend, still photo courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing.

Without self-pity, Dafoe's fictional character, Diego Fairman, is a conflicting, selfish filmmaker who blames others for things that are out of his control – including his lymphatic cancer. 

In the urgency for a bone marrow transplant, his brother Antonio (Guilherme Weber) is the only person who lives nearby with compatibility.

Antonio feels that Diego blames him for the death of their father and the misuse of their family’s money. Far-off, the brother became the medulla donor with a costly price tag.

The family liaisons don’t go well. In private, everyone feels betrayed. His surrounded friends also have problems dealing with the stressful situation of Diego going under surgery. The treatment will have an unknown outcome. 

“My Hindu Friend” original dark humor lightens the awkward moments of Diego's fight against cancer. Diego’s witty personality guides us to unexpected places. The performances and the settings work together harmoniously, enriching the flamboyant and pristine look of the film.

My Hindu Friend, still photo courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing.

At the hospital, he meets some stimulating characters who will help Diego on his transitional stage, including a symbolic gatekeeper, the death, and his new Hindu friend.

In terms of separation of the body and soul, every doctrine has different interpretations. For Diego, being Jewish is a confrontation between the predetermined religious beliefs versus his precepts.

Babenco's last work makes us feel the experience of a dying man vividly. All he wants is to have another opportunity to produce one more film and redeem himself. 

“My Hindu Friend” exquisite soundtrack is composed by the extraordinary Polish musician Zbigniew Preisner, who worked closely with Krzysztof Kieslowski in "Three Colors: Blue, White, and Red" and "The Double Life of Verónique," among other transcendental soundtracks. The recording was done in Austria by the Vienna Symphony.

My Hindu Friend, still photo courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing.

Born in Argentina and naturalized Brazilian, Babenco is not afraid of talking about his active sexual life - he shows, without any inhibitions, the beauty of a women's naked body in a poetical form.

Babenco accomplishes, with a high grade of mastery,  his personal experiences to the big screen in a very intimate atmosphere with his minimalist settings. 

The filmography of Babenco includes his Oscar-winner masterwork “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” He is behind some Brazilian influential projects such as “Pixote,” “Carandidu,” and “El Pasado.” “Before Night Falls” and “A Play in the Fields of the Lord” represented his return to Hollywood.

“My Hindu Friend” has some references to "Pixote," a child dealing with drugs and prostitution in the streets of Saint Paulo in the late 1970s. Both films deal with loneliness, despair, and dehumanization in a society.
 
The character-driven, linear, semi-autobiographical piece awakens paradoxical emotions in the viewer and transcends further the legacy of a director that is no longer with us, but his work is a fundamental part of world cinema.

“My Hindu Friend” is essential, spiritually meaningful, and a well-balanced work of art ready to be discovered by viewers who appreciate the excellence in cinema.
 
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