Güeros, drama, not rated, in Span­ish with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 4 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

At its purest, cin­ema should un­fold like a wak­ing dream that en­velops you in an al­ter­nate re­al­ity, then ejects you back into your life with a new ex­hil­a­ra­tion and in­spi­ra­tion. Mex­i­can di­rec­tor Alonso Ruiz Pala­cios ac­com­plishes just that in Güeros, an­nounc­ing him­self as one of the bright­est new stars on the in­ter­na­tional film cir­cuit with one of the finest de­but fea­tures in years.

The story cen­ters on teenage Tomás (Se­bastián Aguirre) who acts up and forces his mother to send him to stay with his brother (Tenoch Huerta) at a univer­sity in Mexico City. The year is 1999, and the stu­dents are protest­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of tu­ition fees. Tomás’ brother and friend, how­ever, lead a slacker life in their dark apart­ment (“we’re protest­ing the protest”) un­til Tomás’ ar­rival forces them out of the build­ing and into the bustling world.

Güeros is a po­lit­i­cally charged and pas­sion­ate look at youth who are dis­en­fran­chised by their coun­try and slowly be­ing splin­tered due to class dif­fer­ences. It’s easy to see it as a re­flec­tion of what twenty-some­things around the world are cur­rently go­ing through, but Güeros cap­tures that de­sire to drift around the fringes and em­bod­ies the free­dom of youth in chang­ing times just as 1960s movies such as Easy Rider and the French New Wave films did.

The work of art it re­minds me most of, how­ever, is Roberto Bo­laño’s 1998 novel, The Sav­age De­tec­tives. Apart from the sim­i­lar time pe­ri­ods, the par­al­lels are clear: They’re both set in Mexico and fea­ture sev­eral young, bright peo­ple who drive around in older cars. They are highly pas­sion­ate and mo­ti­vated, yet also aim­less. Their loose quest re­volves around find­ing an artis­tic leg­end: Cesárea Ti­na­jero, the reclu­sive poet of De­tec­tives, is re­placed here by the ob­ject of the Güeros he­roes’ ob­ses­sion, for­got­ten rock star Epig­me­nio Cruz.

Make no mis­take: Güeros is the kind of nar­ra­tive that could only ex­ist in the film medium. Damian Gar­cia’s black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy glides from one sur­pris­ing im­age to the next, as if the film’s sole pur­pose is find­ing new ways to ex­press the mun­dane. One scene takes place at an aquar­ium, with the char­ac­ters ap­pear­ing as sil­hou­ettes against the brightly lit tank, as seals swoop and glide through the wa­ter be­hind them. There is no rea­son for the scene to take place in this lo­ca­tion, ex­cept for the fact that it’s a beau­ti­ful im­age.

These im­ages are com­ple­mented by a sound mix that is fre­quently un­usual and ex­per­i­men­tal. Si­lence and white noise oc­ca­sion­ally blan­ket di­a­logue, let­ting our imag­i­na­tions rush in to fill the gaps. This frag­mented ap­proach ul­ti­mately en­dears us to the ac­tors more than a firm char­ac­ter arc; by the clos­ing cred­its we’re still will­ing to get in the back­seat of that car and fol­low them any­where. — Robert Ker

Win­dow on the world

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