Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Los viajes del vento (Wind Journeys)

Colombia’s 2010 Oscar submission was a little better than most of the South American fare i caught at the Santa Barbara Film Festival that year (I left a Chilean film that might have been interesting but I suspect not, and a Venezuelan film that was just horrible), but was nonetheless a pretty unrewarding experience.

Strange flat landscapes fill the screen, two thirds earth to one third sky. A burial takes place. An old man sets off on a donkey, carrying an accordion with horns on it, followed by a boy. The man is Ignacio Carillo, a famous juglar, (traveling musician) who refuses to play anymore, and is making a long journey to return the ‘devil’s accordion’ to his master.

The pair travels across fields, plains, deserts, mountains, and water. Igancio is a man of few words who hides behind his bushy mustache and low-brimmed hat. Fermin, the boy, alternates between looks of blank imbecility (though he’s no idiot) and fierce animal determination. He wants to learn the accordion, but it’s quickly apparent that he has no gift, even if he can squeeze his way through a pretty mean conga. Later, he will be baptized with lizard’s blood in a sunlit forest clearing amidst the sweat-glistening torsos of a group of drum students. Fortunately, learning and growing are not over-egged.

Along the way Ignacio gets roped into a striking machete duel on a bridge, observed by a splendid array of impassive faces. He also wins a rather fun accordion duel, though the contest turns more on extemporizing confrontational verses than actually playing. Naturally, he and Firman argue and part, then the boy gets to show his balls by retrieving the stolen accordion, and restoring Igancio’s will to live in a eerie sequence in a thatched mountain village.

The film is also largely free of spirituality and mysticism, even when they reach their journey’s end. The pace here slows satisfyingly almost to a standstill and reveals the journey to have been just something that must be done. The film is less about what things mean, and more about how they must be. There’s lots of good music and the sound of the wind is so prevalent as to become almost subliminal. But for such a slight tale of stark existentialism, with deliberately sketchy characters, at just shy of two hours it feels tiresomely short of incident, yet fails to achieve hypnotic contemplation.

d/sc Ciro Guerra p Diana Bustamente, Cristina Gallego ph Paolo Andrés Pérez ed Iván Wild pd Angélica Perea m Iván Ocampo cast Marciano Martinez, Yull Núñez, Agustin Nieves, Jose Luis Torres, Carmen Molina, Erminia Martinez
(2009, Col, 117m)
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