Sunday, 30 September 2012

las malas intenciones (w&d rosario garcia-montero)

This is the third Latin American film of recent years I've seen which posits a child's coming of age story within the context of the political violence of late 20th c Latin America. One supposes that the extension of this theme would be that the countries themselves (Argentina in the case of Kamchatka and Chile in the case of Wood's Machuca) will have to go through their own right of passage before they emerge into the calmer waters of the twenty first century. It's a cute angle for any filmmaker seeking to take a tangential look at their country's recent history, offering a less didactic approach than a film such as Noche de Los Lapices, which had an urgency conditioned by the fact that the events were still raw and terrifying.

As such Garcia-Montero's film fits into the continental discourse about the way in which societies have moved on (something also present in recent theatre). We watch the young girl Cayetana's story wondering to what extent the paranoia of her upper middle class parents conditions her world view. Not to mention the Hammer and Sickle burning on the hillside or the dead dogs which hang from the lamposts. We see all these things through the child's eyes: all around her the world is in flux. Her mother is a valium addict. Her absentee father a waster. In the midst of this she struggles to find a clear moral path, (hence the bad intentions of the title), seeing her imminently born baby brother as a mortal threat and finding no reason not to steal from her parents. It is as though all feeling has to be dampened down under the country's state of emergency. One of the film's most powerful scenes is when her bourgeois family attempt to leave the beach in a rowing boat, only to be pestered by a host of indigenous children. Risk is all around and things will have to be sacrificed, in particular normal human emotions, something the film's very last scene, when Cayetana finally discovers what it means to feel, illustrates.

The film rides to a large extent on Fatima Buntix's performance as Cayetana. She carries the film remarkably well, even when it starts to feel as though it loses its direction in the final third. There's a whimsical strand relating to her ancestor who participated in a losing battle against the Spanish, which, whilst adding colour, seems to diminish to an extent the intensity of Cayetana's story. At times if feels as though the film pulls its punches: it might have benefitted from having slightly worse intentions itself. The dramatic tension ebbs in the final third, with Cayetana's friend's near-death experience again distracting from the core of her relationships with her mother, father and stepfather.

Nevertheless, this is a rangy, intriguing film which casts a clear, cold eye over Peru's recent history. In keeping perhaps with the process of being a child growing up it seems to surf from highlight to highlight, with life drifting along during the bits in between whilst portentous events occur just around the corner. 

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