Film of the week: “Summer of Goliath” (Review)
Veering from cinéma-vérité to domestic melodrama to absurdist comedy, Summer of Goliath ostensibly depicts a few days in the lives of the citizens of Huilotepec, Mexico, but by the end of the portrait, we’re not really sure what to make of Nicolas Pereda’s new film. A cult following might result if folks catch onto the film’s sheer odd quality.
Mexican-born Pereda, who at 29 is enjoying a career retrospective this July at New York’s Anthology Film Archives, merits attention as an up-and-coming filmmaker. Even with Summer of Goliath, which doesn’t always work, he shows promise as a multi-hyphenate director-writer-producer-editor.
Daringly, Pereda provides mini-narratives that barely overlap, including the story of the title character, a teenager (Oscar Saavedra Miranda) accused of once killing his girlfriend; a housewife (Teresa Sanchez) who helps find a job for her army-bum son (Gabino Rodriguez) while she worries about her philandering ex-husband; and an elderly woman who tries but fails to sell her goods to the locals.
Like several other minor films of late, including Miguel Gomes’ Our Beloved Month of August and Matt Porterfield’s Putty Hill, Summer of Goliath blends fact and fiction in a manner that deliberately blurs the lines. Of course, other directors have been doing this for years, but the trend is in high gear now and the novelty of the approach might be reaching a saturation point. (Certainly, Ricardo Costa’s Mists represents the nadir so far, while Gomes and Karim Ainouz’s I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You represents the peak.) What sets Pereda’s film apart is that the filmmaker takes such a quick and dramatic detour from the expected travelogue or documentary, viewers find themselves right away in uncertain, uncharted territory.
More self-reflexive, in the Abbas Kiarostami sense, than merely quirky, Summer of Goliath contemplates the cinematic process via an on-again, off-again “making of” film within the film, and distancing techniques, including deliberately blurred imagery and excessively long takes of basic conversations. Of the latter, the absurdist highlight comes as the frustrated housewife dictates a letter for her illiterate son to memorize. It is a funny scene even if it doesn’t make total sense.
There are disturbing, even menacing moments as well, particularly those involving young Goliath and his buddies and a lengthy scene in which a pair of soldiers intimidate the locals “for kicks.” The pervasiveness of the violence is one of the few common threads, perhaps, as Pereda might say, because of the community’s lack of economic security and in spite of the locality’s pastoral prettiness. Summer of Goliath leaves you scratching your head but not overly frustrated.
Source: By Eric Monder for Film Journal
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