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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sangre


The first feature film by Amat Escalante is good but according to me is very far away from Carlos Reygadas excellent films. What I just said means nothing more than an effort to separate both filmmakers from each other, even when they had worked together in movies like Batalla en el Cielo and Carlos Reygadas is the producer of Escalante’s films. So, with this said lets talk about Sangre.

Seems there is a trend in world cinema to do more films in which apparently “nothing happens” until something does. I’m particularly thinking about some Romanian movies as well as from other European countries. Sangre is a film that seems to follow this trend.

For non-regular art cinema lovers this film will seem like there is nothing happening in most of the picture and almost in the end “something” happens that if you’re not alert you could miss it, until the main character Diego does something that clearly explains what happened.

But while you may feel that “nothing is happening” as you’re watching the life of an absolutely ordinary working class couple that leads a mundane existence there is actually a lot happening. The thing is that everything is happening not with words but with facial expressions and with what they do in their ordinary lives. So, I could say that is not an easy to watch movie as you really have to pay attention to things that you usually take for granted in most movies.

The movie tells about Blanca that works in a Japanese fast food joint and Diego that works in an unmentioned government office counting the people that enter the office. Both are married and submerged in a banal existence that does not leave their everyday routine of sleeping, eating, working, watching TV and having emotionless sex. If they speak it will be monosyllables or because they argue. Nothing is exciting in their lives anymore and no one is doing something to change it. Both are stuck in a senseless relationship and life, and both are not aware of the senselessness or care for that matter. Does this seem familiar to some of you? I believe it does, either you have someone you know living like this or you have seen it from afar. There most be many couples in the world living like Diego and Blanca.

Such senseless existence can only be shown in one way; slowly showing the very senseless details of an ordinary –and very common- existence and that’s exactly what this movie does. In a way I do relate the storytelling technique that Escalante used to that Rainer Werner Fassbinder movie Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? a movie that bores you as much as Mr. R. life is and you not only get the main simple message but you also live and feel it while watching. If you open your mind you will get the straightforward simple message in Sangre and you will also be able to live and feel the tediousness of a senseless and ordinary existence.

As in the Fassbinder movie where almost at the end something terrible happens, Sangre also has something bad happening at the very end. But unlike Fassbinder movie, here the something bad unfolds like their own existence: in a senseless way.

Everything that I have mentioned about the story could no be well told if actors performances were not outstanding as well as directing, editing, framing, cinematography, etc. What’s really remarkable is that all actors are non-actors (for example, Diego was Escalante’s real life neighbor) and that Escalante was able to extract from them such good performances. I also find outstanding the “dry” humor sparkled allover the screenplay written also by Escalante.

Cinematography was very good but not breathtaking (that’s one thing that separates Reygadas from Escalante according to me) with the exception of one or two scenes that where truly spectacular, the film looks and feels like ordinary urban settings, which highly contribute to the ordinary and senseless story, but not to viewer’s pleasure.

The movie has multiple honors in fests and awards allover the world that includes the FIPRESCI Award and being in competition at the Un Certain Regard section at 2005 Cannes.

I enjoyed the movie very much but I recognize that could be a very exhausting experience –against an entertaining experience- so, the film absolutely is not for all audiences but only for those that enjoy extremely slow paced (some scenes are real time), not easy to sustain and get behind the obvious and “new” cinema style in totally art house movies.

Enjoy!!!

P.S. Sangre means blood in Spanish, but there is no red blood in this movie. The main relation I find is to blood relatives, as Diego gets into something bad with one blood relative and there is a crucial and symbolic scene where what it looks like a father and a son were physically fighting. Yes, this movie is full of symbols too, like the cows in the garbage dump or the rotten fruits that fall from the tree.

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