Film Reviews

Alma Blanco in La Yuma; how would she stack up against Hilary Swank?

Waiter, uncork that Rioja! The Spanish Film Club meets tonight

The Spanish (-speaking) Film Club at the Doris Duke, held this week in conjunction with the Spanish cultural mission, is like a brief vacation. The cine-fiesta shows off familiar lives of quiet desperation, of selves disintegrating under the sway of family stresses–too much daytime television and mind-altering stimulants, among them love.

But before we get to that, our first serving is From the Land to Your Table, which should endear itself to anyone who wishes the KCC Farmers Market was 10 times the size (and Costco was a 7-11 in Waikiki). This beautifully shot and composed documentary, without talking heads or voice-over, starts in a subsistence-level farm at the edge of the Brazilian jungle, lingering with the husband and wife team until their lives and work melt into one. We follow them taking an ox cart to the nearest town, selling their slaughtered pigs and produce, riding in a truck to another town high in the Andes for another market. And then we enter the world of the marketeers, hagglers and hucksters, moving from market to market: those favored by lower and upper classes alike, then to Rio de Janiero and its favelas, the slums. It ends with a butcher and a fruit-seller wondering where the young people will come from, to keep the food chain flowing. It’s a question all of us should ask. (Sept. 29, 1pm, 4pm, and 7:30pm.)

But you can’t keep the kids down on the farm once they’ve seen Before Opening Night, which careers through the days before Juana, a blondly overwrought Argentine stage actor, opens in a new play. As might be expected, she’s a mess–drinking too much, but also emoting like crazy with her young daughter and scruffy-but-bourgeois film director husband, who’s the one holding the family and household together. The mood swings are pronounced, but also softened and dappled by Bergmanesque colors and foliage. Argentina is known for being the most psychoanalysis-crazy country in the world, and the film feels like a dreamlike seance on an analyst’s couch. (Sept. 30 at lpm, 4pm and 7:30pm.)

Oct. 1 at 7:30pm is your only chance to catch The Inner Island, which gives us a look at one of Hawaii’s sister islands, the Canaries, a subtropical volcanic chain used as a pit stop during the age of sail, whose indigenous population was enslaved and virtually exterminated by both Spanish and Portuguese masters in the process of turning a profit from sugar cane. (They even surf there now, too.) Too bad the film in question could be set in any Spanish-speaking country that has a working TV set: It hews to the format of a telenovela, the populist serials which Pedro Almodovar spoofs more creatively. Here, the story of a father, son, mother and daughter succumbing to inherited mental illness grows absolutely wrenching. A drink before, as well as after, may be in order.

The formula is earthier in La Yuma, about a young Nicaraguan girl who sets out to become a boxer. It’s a familiar story–we’ve come a long way–and competently done, but I couldn’t stop wondering how lead Alma Blanco would fare against Hilary Swank in the ring. (Oct. 2, 1pm, 7:30pm.)

The documentary The Death of Pinochet is as bizarre as any fiction by Chile’s late, great Roberto Bolano. Of all the films under review, this one should hit an American audience the hardest: Pinochet was the dictator backed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who, on another fateful 9/11 (this one in 1973) overthrew the democratically elected regime of Salvador Allende, murdering thousands of students and suspected liberals in a decade-long orgy of rightwing violence. (Oct. 3 at 1pm and 7:30pm.)