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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (12) - Barrie Pattison reports on Salvador del Solar's MAGALLANES (Peru, 2015, 109 minutes)

Remarkably assured for a first film, this one kicks off with chauffeur lead Damián Alcázar moving wheelchair bound Colonel (the great) Fedderico Luppi and, with his “Taxi” sign stuck back on the windshield, picking up Magaly Solier (Blackthorn) and driving her to what proves to be a product rally for a something called U-Life where the MC flogs the cosmetics she can’t sell in her beauty salon, like a hot gospel preacher. We’re just getting interested in this when it turns out to be a misleading digression.

In his rat hole cellar home, Alcázar has a sketch of the girl and a photo of her with a younger Luppi. This triggers an intriguing low tech. scam which compares with sequences by Kurosawa (Tengoku to jigoku High and the Low) and Brian de Palma (Body Double). Alcázar’s schemes unravel with rejection and violence leaving him increasingly isolated.

The most audacious set piece however, even if it doesn’t fully succeed, is Solier giving him a haircut and shave.

The portrait of Lima in growing prosperity, coming after a period of Shining Path terror and ferocious military reaction, is effective but the movie’s strongest moments are it’s shots of the characters’ faces. Alcázar, Solier and the support are exceptional but it’s aged Luppi who dominates each of his brief scenes, projecting unquestioned authority run to seed. The cut to him with a chock ice is beautiful. The progress of the yellow envelope of bank notes in the final reels is also great story telling.

Hispanic film is always the major tradition we know the least about. Del Solar’s use of talents from across the “Ibero American” industries is an attempt to reach a wider public.  Remarkably articulate on film and in person, he proposes art as the way to address the area’s violent past rather than polemics or the courts.

Intriguingly the film has the same conclusion as John Lvoff’s also remarkable and under screened year 2000 L'homme des foules - the secret policeman denied punishment. It would be interesting to know if del Solar was aware of the precedent.

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