Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:37 pm 
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Portrait of fatherhood in crisis, and the strength of a child

I reviewed Veiloj's 2010 A Useful Life first, at San Francisco. His 2015 The Apostate came my way via New Directors. On the second go I concluded this director's aim is "to make minorness interesting, and somehow significant." He also likes to star people he knows, who aren't really actors. Let's note how Jonathan Holland defines what's new in this third film in his Hollywood Reporter review. It has "greater emotional range,"and is "also less playful, more austere and generally more forbidding.". As a common thread, though, one might mention (Holland again) his "engagingly fastidious and quirky directorial style." That's key to the aim I see of making minorness interesting, and somehow significant.

Belmonte (Gonzalo Delgado) is tall, like Veiroj himself and his other friend-actor-protagonists, with a serious, Latin, European face, handsome in a pleasingly worn way, weary eyes, lined brow, swaths of brown hair, effortlessly, casually stylish in jeans and shirt and aged leather jacket. He's an artist (as is Delgado in real life, and the work really his own, which I, as an artist, find unusual and quite a good thing). His artwork is doing alright, apparently. He sells two of his big paintings, male nudes, bought by a husband for his wife (Cecilia Jeske), who comes on to him when he delivers them. He withdraws. He has a smart and beautiful daughter, Celeste (Olivia Molinaro Eijo), a schoolgirl, he'd like to spend more time with but his estranged wife Jeanne (Jeannette Sauktesliskis), a scholarly-looking printer, won't let him. His parents own one of those pleasing anachronisms Veiroj likes, a refrigerated storage for fur coats, and they keep visiting it though they're supposed to be retired and leave it alone. The setting, Uruguay in the first film, Madrid in the second, now is back in Montevideo, Uruguay, but Belmonte has a show coming also in Buenos Aires.

His artwork is figurative, and how: big fleshy semi-classical figures, mostly outlines, sometimes reminiscent of William Blake, tormented, a touch of Cy Twombly. A crack appears in Belmonte's world halfway through the movie when, in the middle of the night, Celeste cries and demands to be taken back to her mother, who is pregnant with a boy, soon to be born. His world is incomplete. He's moody, unhappy, is seen mooning among an artfully arranged group outdoors listening to a singer of a sad song by (Leo Masliah). A beautiful young pianist at a concert hall (Giselle Motta) discreetly but oh-so-attractively throws herself at Belmonte, as did the wealthy older woman. All this is perhaps not very fashionable right now, but Veiroj certainly does not try to be trendy. Belmonte has only a little to give the pianist, and protests to friends that he wants and needs no further relationship. Is he self-sufficient, or merely unable to function outside his work? In the end, when his wife's new child is born, he goes off to see the boy (named by Celeste Eusebio), carrying a large painting: his art is all he has to give.

This fourth feature (I missed Acné , the first) is more elegant and sad and less quaint. It has a loose, casual style that shows confidence. But by the same token it's less resolved: this hero both idealized and shapeless. The European-style elegance makes it enjoyable perhaps for a cinephile (or festival-goer) to watch, but less likely to be remembered. But I can't guarantee I won't recall this real artist doing his real art, this stylish film with its nice songs and color-drenched images that Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney notes (Belmonte's show catalog cover's red will knock your eye out) and compares to Vittorio Storaro.

Belmonte, 75 mins., debuted at Toronto, with eight other international festivals listed on IMDb including San Sebastián, Zurich, Montevideo, Mar del Plata, Rotterdam, Göteborg and the Neighboring Scenes festival at Lincoln Center. Also now coming in SFFILM's San Francisco Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review.

SFFILM showtimes:
Sun, Apr 14 at 8:00 pm Creativity Theater
Tue, Apr 16 at 6:15 pm YBCA

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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