Tag Archives: Gael García Bernal

Even the Rain (2010, Icíar Bollaín)

Even the Rain has a particular narrative distance as it starts, then changes to another one a little later on. Director Bollaín doesn’t transition gradually between these two vantage points; she keeps the pacing of scenes and how they flow into each other, just from the new distance. The film has an ambitious narrative juxtapositioning to convey, one based somewhat on surface comparisons, but the film succeeds through how Bollaín, writer Paul Laverty, and the cast navigate through that comparison.

The film starts with an introduction to filmmakers Luis Tosar and Gael García Bernal. Tosar is the efficient, callous, cheap producer, García Bernal is the moody, but dedicated director. During the first half of the film, there’s also quite a bit with Cassandra Ciangherotti, who’s along to film a documentary about the movie they’re making. It’s a Christopher Columbus picture, only focusing on the people who realized maybe it was wrong to enslave the native population.

Initially, there’s enough through Ciangherotti’s camera to help Bollaín with that initial narrative distance. It’s a movie about making a movie. There’s the drunken star (Karra Elejalde), who has some trouble learning his lines, but he’s still an astoundingly good actor. Bollaín’s first of many jawdroppingly masterful scenes involves Elejalde immediately going into character during a table read and mesmerizing everyone around him. Including his younger, full of it, costars, played by Raúl Arévalo and Carlos Santos.

The character relationships drive the film through the first act. Tosar and García Bernal, with Ciangherotti a frequent third, have a definite bond, even though the two have completely different ideas about how they should be making the film. Especially given they’re going to be using local native populations as extras.

García Bernal’s casting of one of those natives, Juan Carlos Aduviri, in an important supporting role changes the film in the film’s production, as well as everything else. It turns out Aduviri isn’t just any local, he’s leading the protests against the government’s water privatization.

And instead of his involvement materially affecting García Bernal’s experience, it’s Tosar’s. The first act plays pretty loose with defining one character as a protagonist. It’s like Rain keeps pushing off having to decide and when it finally reveals Tosar in that position, the film ramps up its ambition. Bollaín, Laverty, and Tosar keep aiming higher, making their targets, keep aiming higher. Throughout the second act, the film just impresses more and more….

Then the third act takes it even further. The characters become accutely aware of the juxtaposition of exploited peoples in the sixteenth century and the twenty-first they find themselves in, with most of the cast essaying glamorless shifts in Laverty’s script. Meanwhile, Tosar and Aduviri find themselves reluctantly bound together.

Rain is a phenomenal collaboration between Bollaín, Laverty, and the actors. Bollaín directs the actors through rough introspective, then immediately switches over to gorgeous, epical filmmaking. Alex Catalán’s photography is wondrous, Ángel Hernández Zoido’s editing keeps perfect timing with Bollaín’s pace. Bollaín perfectly combines the overtly cinematic, movie in the movie, movie about making a movie, with the intense character drama.

Tosar’s performance is subtle and overwhelming. Once he gets his first scene to himself, away from Ciangherotti’s video camera, it becomes clear he’s going to be the protagonist sooner or later. With the depth of his performance, he just has to be the lead.

García Bernal’s good, in a very different kind of part from anyone else in the film. He’s sort of a cipher, but for different reasons than Tosar. Tosar reveals himself through his character development, García Bernal reveals himself through the plot progression and his reactions to events. The two are fantastic together, though nothing compared to Tosar and Aduviri.

The only reason Aduviri doesn’t walk off with the film is because it’s not this expansive look at these (real life) water riots. He too remains something of a mystery, but only to Tosar and García Bernal. Aduviri does have the hardest part in the film, just because in his first scene, everyone discusses what he’s going to do in the movie in the movie but due to his nature demeanor, not acting. It sets up the character–and Aduviri’s responsibilities–quite differently from anyone else.

Elejalde is awesome as the drunken, old actor, bringing much needed comic relief. He’s able to defuse tension, both through the part in the script and just how well Elejalde acts it. Because Bollaín knows just how to direct him.

Even the Rain is a spellbinding film. Bollaín and Tosar (and everyone else) do something spectacular.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Icíar Bollaín; written by Paul Laverty; director of photography, Alex Catalán; edited by Ángel Hernández Zoido; music by Alberto Iglesias; produced by Juan Gordon; released by Haut et Court.

Starring Luis Tosar (Costa), Juan Carlos Aduviri (Daniel), Gael García Bernal (Sebastián), Karra Elejalde (Antón), Cassandra Ciangherotti (María), Milena Soliz (Belén), Raúl Arévalo (Juan), Carlos Santos (Alberto), and Leónidas Chiri (Teresa).


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Blindness (2008, Fernando Meirelles)

Maybe there’s a longer version of Blindness where they explain what happens to all the cast members who fall away from the film. Or what happens to them while the film’s busy on other stuff—like Danny Glover, who disappears for a large portion of the film, only to return in an integral part at the end.

Poor Mpho Koaho ingloriously disappears after being in the film from the first few minutes. I guess it’s all right—Glover’s good, Koaho isn’t. The film, which is in an unnamed city (which looks suspiciously Canadian—it filmed in Toronto), has some vague bureaucracy at the beginning (again, it seems very Canadian) but it soon descends into a weak Lord of the Flies with the blind instead of stranded kids. Leader of the bad guys are Gael García Bernal and Maury Chaykin. All the other bad guys, we later learn, as Hispanic males. All the good guys (the men, at least)… white or black. I’m not sure if the filmmakers realized it.

Bernal is laughably bad. Chaykin is at least mildly competent.

The lead is ostensibly Julianne Moore, the only seeing person in the world of the blind. Screenwriter Don McKellar (seemingly intentionally) writes in caricatures and makes Moore’s character ludicrously passive.

Due to McKellar’s weak writing, second-billed Mark Ruffalo gives a mediocre performance. Alice Braga is okay; the best performance is easily Kimura Yoshino.

Meirelles’s direction is unimpressive and obvious, like the film itself….

It’s not terrible, just pointless and boring.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Fernando Meirelles; screenplay by Don McKellar, based on a novel by José Saramago; director of photography, César Charlone; edited by Daniel Rezende; music by Marco Antônio Guimarães; production designers, Matthew Davies and Tulé Peak; produced by Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Niv Fichman and Sonoko Sakai; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Julianne Moore (Doctor’s Wife), Mark Ruffalo (Doctor), Danny Glover (Man with Black Eye Patch), Gael García Bernal (King of Ward 3), Maury Chaykin (Accountant), Alice Braga (Woman with Dark Glasses), Mpho Koaho (Pharmacist’s Assistant), Iseya Yûsuke (First Blind Man), Kimura Yoshino (First Blind Man’s Wife), Mitchell Nye (Boy) and Don McKellar (Thief).

The Limits of Control (2009, Jim Jarmusch)

Someone–Ebert maybe–is going to laud The Limits of Control. The nicest thing one can really say about it is it isn’t abjectly terrible. There aren’t many bad performances (Tilda Swinton’s lame and Bill Murray’s awful and Isaach De Bankolé is weak when he has more lines than the Terminator) and Jarmusch really does know how to frame a shot. But it’s a piece of malarky. It’s supposed to come off as subversive and anti-American in the end–I can’t really explain how without spoiling–and instead it just comes off as silly. You want to see sublime, subversive commentary on American foreign policy, read Warren Ellis’s Crécy. At its best, Limits of Control is obvious… at its worst, well, to put it bluntly, Jarmusch is full of shit.

Jarmusch has always been–often been–an international filmmaker. Limits of Control is a fine example. Set in Spain with an African leading man, there are Mexican actors, British, American, Spanish, probably a French actor in there somewhere… Jarmusch’s has got some great plays with language. But this exotic cast list is mostly just a diversion. It’s to make the audience feel like he or she is watching something, well, art house.

The most striking success of Limits of Control is its commentary on the spy thriller genre in general. It owes a lot to Hitchcock’s 1930s British thrillers, with the MacGuffin somewhat extracted from the film. The result is a boring two hours of people acting suspiciously with coincidence after coincidence occurring without a thread to tie them. So what. Jarmusch could have cut the pay-off scenes out of The Lady Vanishes and he’d get a similar effect. Well, maybe not The Lady Vanishes because so much of it relies on chemistry and Limits of Control has none. It’s like Jarmusch knew he’d have to do something to get people–critics–to talk about his film, so he made Paz de la Huerta take off her clothes for every scene. What’s the effect? Explicit nudity’s boring. Wow, good one. It’s not like Paul Verhoeven didn’t make explicit nudity boring fifteen years ago.

At times it seems like Jarmusch is going somewhere. Like it’s going to be The Courier’s Tragedy or something. It never is. In fact, the best way to describe The Limits of Control is The Courier’s Tragedy without the point. It’s Jarmusch spinning his wheels until the end–the big reveal in The Limits of Control is, literally, a pin.

Then some of it slowly starts to make sense. But it’s dumb, so who cares?

John Hurt’s great. Jean-François Stévenin has a good small role. de la Huerta isn’t bad. When he’s not talking De Bankolé is great.

I think Jarmusch was going for some kind of mystical realism with the film too.

He fails.

Oh, and how did he misuse Christopher Doyle? The colors are all flat and dead.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Christopher Doyle; edited by Jay Rabinowitz; music by Boris; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Gretchen McGowan and Stacey E. Smith; released by Focus Features.

Starring Isaach De Bankolé (Lone Man), Alex Descas (Creole), Jean-François Stévenin (French), Óscar Jaenada (Waiter), Luis Tosar (Violin), Paz de la Huerta (Nude), Tilda Swinton (Blonde), Youki Kudoh (Molecules), John Hurt (Guitar), Gael García Bernal (Mexican), Hiam Abbass (Driver) and Bill Murray (American).

Amores perros (2000, Alejandro González Iñárritu)

Amores perros could be a public service announcement about canine cruelty in Mexico City. Mexico City has a population of around nine million and takes up about six hundred square miles. For such a big city, it’s kind of odd the cast keeps running into each other, since their only connection is being the subject of this film (destitute assassin and dog lover Emilio Echevarría, who walks everywhere, must secretly be The Flash if he’s going to cover so much ground). I’d barely heard of the film, so I was a little surprised when I found it had such a critical and popular following.

Considering how hard it was to get through the first third–the film’s separated into three parts, rather haphazardly since most of the action in the second part is Echevarría’s and the first part is resolved in the third–I figure I’m alone. The first part is an entirely predictable brother loves brother’s wife story, somewhat accessorized (with the dog fighting). Even when it seems like it’s going to be unpredictable, it really turns out it is, no surprise, utterly traditional. The acting’s a little weak–Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Bauche are about as charisma-free as forbidden lovers can get. Cuckolded brother Marco Pérez, who has almost nothing to do, is a lot better. Bernal’s given the film’s biggest movie star role (except Echevarría, but his role turns out rather well) and he doesn’t do much with it. He’s a passive actor who mugs for the camera a lot–he kind of reminds of George Clooney on “E.R.” when he’d do the thing with looking up with his head down. Except Clooney had better writing.

The second story, which is hinted at during the first, turns out to be excellent and is a complete surprise. It’s a joy no less. Married publishing guy Álvaro Guerrero runs off with his mistress, a supermodel (how they met isn’t really explained and it’s a problem at first, since Guerrero’s character is a tad shallow). There’s a dog trapped in the floor, there’s the supermodel recovering from a car accident, there’s Guerrero’s wife ready to take him back. It’s the film’s most singular story–it reminds of a deceptively good short story, one the reader might dismiss while going through only to have a realization about on the last line. Even when it seems like it’s going to be cheap, it pulls through. Goya Toledo is good as the supermodel, probably giving the film’s second-best performance.

The best performance is easily Echevarría, who gets the goofy nomination friendly role here (Mexico has an Academy Award equivalent, right?). It’s almost absurd all the work he gets to do, but he does it all well. The film runs two and a half endless hours and the third story takes an hour. Subtracting the resolution to the first story (Guerrero and Toledo are noticeably absent from the third story, but given how well their’s went… maybe it’s for the best), it still probably runs fifty minutes. It’s frequently surprising and Echevarría makes the melodrama work. He’s got a couple big actor monologues and then gets to walk off into a Herzog shot.

The script uses some really cheap devices to bring its cast together and the narrative’s fractured, future here, past there, which is sometimes distracting and never really any good. Iñárritu’s direction is fine, does a decent film as video verité (I think it’s film anyway). It’s kind of a small movie pretending to be big, where the three stories either don’t deserve a feature or desperately do. Taking the Nashville approach seems to be something of a recurring cinematic fad… except some films tell stories requiring and some do not. Amores perros does not.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu; written by Guillermo Arriaga; director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto; edited by González Iñárritu, Luis Carballar and Fernando Pérez Unda; music by Gustavo Santaolalla; production designer, Brigitte Broch; released by Nu Vision.

Starring Emilio Echevarría (El Chivo), Gael García Bernal (Octavio), Goya Toledo (Valeria), Álvaro Guerrero (Daniel), Vanessa Bauche (Susana), Jorge Salinas (Luis), Marco Pérez (Ramiro), Rodrigo Murray (Gustavo), Humberto Busto (Jorge), Gerardo Campbell (Mauricio), Rosa María Bianchi (Aunt Luisa), Dunia Saldívar (Susana’s Mother), Adriana Barraza (Octavio’s Mother), José Sefami (Leonardo), Lourdes Echevarría (Maru), Laura Almela (Julieta), Ricardo Dalmacci (Andrés Salgado) and Gustavo Sánchez Parra (Jarocho).