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Tag: film review

Film Review: The Wind Journeys (Los Viajes del Viento)

Los Viajes del Viento (The Wind Journeys) (2009)

Rather than get your fix of Colombian culture from Hollywood spectacles like Colombiana, look no further than The Wind Journeys for an authentic and contemporary cinematic depiction of a nation. No, it doesn’t show the increasingly modernized cityscapes of Bogotá or Medellin, but it does reach back to the diverse heritage and tradition of the developing country. The film hosts a great static cinematography of the pantheon of panoramic Colombian vistas – mountains, plains, rivers, desert – all accompanied by a furious wind that blows through the country, carrying tradition with it.

The Wind Journeys takes the viewer on a sonic journey of traditional Colombian music – from the country-folk stylings of Merengue and Vallenato to more indigenous wind and percussion-based sounds of the Wayuú and other Highland peoples. The lonesome journey of a once-famed travelling accordionist begins with a death, that of elderly protagonist’s wife, and also climaxed with the loss of another, his Master Guerra. However, the ways of his cursed accordion refused to die. A playboy in his prime, the elderly protagonist, Ignacio, has countless bastard children throughout the land, posing the question whether his young companion, Fermin, is one of them. Yes or no, Ignacio refuses to teach Fermin how to play any instruments, refuses to pass on his way of life that has left him to endure pain and strife. He blames this strife on the cursed accordion he wields, but his struggles are that of all mankind, his ‘Devil’s Accordian’ merely a scapegoat.

The boy’s rite of passage and the man’s rite of death evoke Homer’s Odyssey and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart – parallel epics unfold across primordial lands, the dual wayfarers encountering mythic trials for their feats to overcome. Of all the legendary feats, though, I didn’t care for the accordion-off. I know that ‘realistic’ isn’t what director, Guerra, was aiming for in this mythic tale, but this drawn out scene came off as juvenile. Perhaps in the mother tongue it was more appropriate, but I feel subtlety and sophistication were lost in translation.

After Fermin’s baptism, Ignacio’s fears were substantiated. Even without trying to teach the younger generation, some things are still imparted, as if by way of the very breeze we share. By the end, he decides that since sheltering the past to protect the present is futile, you might as well impart the things that you know and love to neutralize the inescapable woes of the world. The final scene leaves us with a Lost in Translation moment, with a message being transmitted, the content of which remaining unbeknownst to the audience forever. I will not bother to guess here. It seems to me, though, that the words have no weight, the very act itself is enough to be of consequence.

Do yourself a favor and put it on your queue instead of Colombiana.

 

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Film Review – Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

Think The Office is years past its prime? Wanna smack that searing smirk off Jim’s sneering face? You aren’t alone. Actually, I’d say that you are among thousands or hundreds of thousands. But maybe John Krasinski wasn’t meant to carry a series like this singlehandedly, or play starring roles in flicks like Away We Go or License to Wed. If 2009’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – based on late David Foster Wallace’s 1999 collection of short stories – is any indication, I think he should park himself behind the camera from now on. Krasinski also plays the role of the main character’s ex, the catalyst of her obsessive research into the minds of men. Although it sounds a major part, like nearly all the other characters in the film, he is undeveloped – quite intentionally, I might add – with only an informative monologue to go by. All the same, I watched the film not knowing who the director was, and when Krasinski’s full-hearted monologue (of sorts) stepped onto the stage at the tail end of the movie, I couldn’t help but think – being a fan of Mad Men – that, ‘Jon Hamm would kill this scene.’ To my chuckling surprise when the credits rolled, Krasinski had directed the joint aptly, and just had to snatch that cameo role.

It was a cameo among cameos, though, as the intriguing ensemble cast is one of the most attractive attributes to the masses for this independent Sundance film. Julianne Nicholson of Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Boardwalk Empire plays the disconnected, disenchanted lead, with guest roles from Will Arnett, Timothy Hutton, Christopher Meloni, Will Forte, Frankie Faison, Corey Stoll, and Rashida Jones. It is a film composed of disjointed interviews of people answering questions that are left off the reel – following the protocol of the book – providing Krasinski with a hefty directorial challenge. How do you go about shaping a movie with a protagonist for the audience to attach to when said protagonist is solely an observer conducting surveys? And surveys where we don’t even hear her ask the questions, to boot. Some might say he has failed to meet this difficult challenge, but I would pose that those viewers failed to step up to the plate on their end of the experience. The way the film is shot and spliced together begs the viewer to take center stage and actively evaluate and create their own questions and answers about love and the mindsets of men and women. However uncomfortable the subject matter may be, the viewer has an unspoken duty here to spill their heart out…if only to themselves. And that is the beauty I find in this adaptation.

As an aside, it’s also refreshing to hear Cold War Kids’ “Every Man I Fall For” as soon as the credits appear. The song is perfect for both the content and mood of the film – a vacuous and distraught form of anger, betrayal, or apathy, whichever best fits the thoughts you conjured and perhaps relived upon actively watching. By providing this environment of questions and past experiences, Krasinski (with the help of source material from a modern master) showed he’s got more to him than a snide smirk, and on his debut effort on top of that.