Five Latin American films recommended by Walter Salles
1. ‘Leonera’ (‘Lions Den’)
(Pablo Trapero, 2008)
Another prison movie, but a very smart one, starring Argentinian Trapero’s wife, Martina Gusman. She plays Julia, a pregnant woman, perhaps wrongly incarcerated for a murder. The film follows her years in a wing for mothers and babies and her battle to keep son Thomas inside with her. Trapero’s battle is to keep clichés at bay, and through subtle camerawork and Gusman’s acting, this is done grippingly.
(Fernando Meirelles, 2008)
Dramatic thriller adaptated from José Saramago’s 1995 novel about a society suffering an epidemic of blindness. Written by Don McKellar, the film stars Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo. Saramago originally refused to sell the film rights, scared that they would fall into the wrong hands, but Meirelles was able to acquire them on the condition the film would be set in an unrecognizable city.
3. ‘La Mujer sin Cabeza’ (‘The Headless Woman’)
(Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
A woman perhaps runs over a dog on the highway and, possibly as a result, suffers her own injury. Dazed and forgetful, she wanders through her newly defamiliarized routine, engaging in all manner of impulsive behaviour, always with a gracious smile and quizzical air. For her third feature, the Argentine director of “La Ciénaga” and “The Holy Girl” has created a comedy of disassociation. “La Mujer” is typically dense often funny and, no less than the protagonist, the viewer is compelled to live in the moment.
4. ‘Memorias del Subdesarrollo’ (‘Memories of Underdevelopment’)
(Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 1968)
Hailed as one of the most sophisticated films ever to come out of Cuba in the early days of Castro’s revolution, the film is visionary Cuban director Alea’s tour de force. Sergio’s wife, parents and friends have all left Cuba in the wake of the Bay of Pigs incident. Alone in a brave new world, Sergio feels the constant threat of foreign invasion while chasing young women all over Havana. He finally meets Elena, a young virgin girl he seeks to mould into the image of his ex-wife, but at what cost to himself?
5. ‘Terra em Transe’ (‘Land Entranced’)
(Glauber Rocha, 1967)
Rocha once said, “Brazil is a carnival that must be destroyed” and in this film he takes the notion to heart with a stunning assault on the corruption of the Brazilian bourgeois ruling class in the wake of the country’s 1964 coup. Focused on the conflict between a populist governor and a right-wing dictator set in the fictional country of Eldorado, the film’s delirious camerawork and operatic scope brilliantly convey Brazil’s “permanent state of madness.”