Monday, 11 November 2013

la paz (w&d santiago loza)

Loza’s film oozes a lo-fi, 5D sensibility. It might be that it wasn’t filmed with the ubiquitous game-changing camera, but it shares the woozy, cinema verité style which the affordable technology permits. There’s hints of Rick Alvarez, not just in the camera style but also in La Paz’s episodic structure, with chapters introduced by terse headings: “moto” or “rio”.

The film also occupies the ground zero of Argentine filmmaking: the dysfunctional middle-class family. Visible in the work of Martel, earlier Trapero, and Mariano Cohn’s El Hombre de al Lado, to name a few. The protagonist is a disturbed young man, Liso, recovering from a nervous breakdown, living at home with his gun-toting businessman father and Oedipal mother. Liso doesn’t know what he wants and he doesn’t know how to get what he doesn’t want. His dad gives him money to sleep with a hooker who tells him he’s good-looking and he should get himself a proper girl. But an earlier scene with a former girlfriend hints at a darker side, something repeated when he sleeps with another ex, who he wakes up in dramatic fashion, in the grip of a deranged panic attack. The only thing which seems to offer Liso any kind of fresh air is the world of the Bolivian housemaid. The idea of ‘the other’ Latin America, latent within his own, gradually exerts a stronger and stronger pull. The film’s final sequence suggests that his recognition of this will prove to be his redemption.

The drama is always understated, with the story constructed out of moments observed as much as the joining of narrative dots. La Paz is essentially a character study, with Liso possessed by a Chekhovian listlessness which his own country cannot assuage. (There are hints of Veronese’s adaptations of Chekhov). It’s easy to drift with the film’s mellifluous rhythms, although there are moments when one cannot help thinking that the dreamy sensibility might have benefited from a slightly more rigorous approach within its scenic structure. The ending, for example, seems to come too easily, as Liso’s confusion and ambiguity is discarded in a brief scene in La Paz. As though the Bolivian poor’s raison d’etre is solely to provide Liso with the solution to his psychological problems. 

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