Monday, January 20, 2020

My Hindu Friend; Hector Babenco's Testament to Posterity

By José Alberto Hermosillo

“My Hindu Friend” is an elegant and cinematic celebration of life at the end of one man’s journey with gratifying visuals. Hector Babenco’s last film is a conciliatory testimony of 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 exceptionally on a quest for redemption. Suppose you think Antonio Banderas’s Oscar-worthy characterization of Pedro Almodovar in “Pain and Glory” was remarkable. In that case, the performance of Willem Dafoe portraying Hector Babenco is fascinating and hypnotic.

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

Without self-pity, Dafoe’s fictional character, Diego Fairman, is a conflicting, selfish filmmaker who blames others for things 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 surrounding friends also have problems dealing with the stressful situation of Diego undergoing 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 striking and pristine look of the film.

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

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

Every doctrine has different interpretations regarding the separation of the body and soul. Being Jewish is a confrontation between the predetermined religious beliefs and his precepts for Diego.

Babenco’s last work makes us feel the experience of a dying man vividly. He wants 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 photos courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing.

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

Babenco accomplishes, with a high grade of mastery,  his personal experiences on 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 influential Brazilian 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 society.
The character-driven, linear, semi-autobiographical piece awakens paradoxical emotions in the viewer. It further transcends 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 an essential, spiritually meaningful, and well-balanced work of art ready to be discovered by viewers who appreciate the excellence in cinema.

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