El Violin (The Violin)
Produced, directed & written by Francisco Vargas
The theme of music as a means of connection is hardly an uncommon one in movies these days (Once, High Fidelity, Hustle & Flow, etc.). It’s been used on so many occasions whether in documentary or narrative film, that it’s impossible to account for them all. In Francisco Vargas’ El Violin, shot in a grainy black & white with the appropriate feel of the indie film it is, the story is about the instrument more so than the music it makes.
Taking place within an occupied military zone in impoverished Mexico, the movie opens with a particularly brutal sequence involving the torture of captured rebels. We are then introduced to the venerable Don Plutarco (Don Ángel Tavira) who walks the local towns playing the titular violin with his guitarist son Genaro (Gerardo Taracena) and grandson Lucio (Mario Garibaldi) playing for pesos. There’s more than meets the eye as we soon learn when Genaro goes into a local cantina where he has furtive plans to pick up guns and ammunition. How that contraband makes its way to the fellow rebels hiding in the mountains is the gist of the story and how the film gets its name. With his quiet frail demeanor, he is able to travel in and out of the military zone armed with his violin case and information he overhears. In one of the many authentic aspects of the film, he is able to connect with Comandante Cayetano (Silverio Palacios), a sadistic soldier who is enthusiastically loyal to his cause. Through Don Plutarco’s music the soldier, like a soothed beast, becomes a human being if just for a few moments. All of the characters are fully realized and avoid the stereotypes found in so many ideologically driven films. In El Violin, it’s clear its director is more interested in finding the humanity in his characters.
Originally an award-winning short, El Violin’s undeniable coup is in the casting of non-professional actor Tavira who is the heart and soul of the film. The award he won in Un Certain Regard at Cannes will no doubt get him some very due attention. The movie is playing at Cinema Village in Manhattan (22 E. 12th St.) and will be available on DVD in February at Film Movement.
Top photo ©Film Movement, bottom photo (dir. Francisco Vargas) ©Adam Schartoff
As of the end of my day on February 1st, I’ve seen all or part of 15 films in my 5 days of screenings which for those of you familiar with my past festival behavior must seem like I’ve been kidnapped by aliens. Not only that but, I’ve not bought or smoked any cannabinoids, have been up before 9am every day and was back at my hotel before midnight every day but one. But enough about me….cinema!
I started my fest off, oddly enough, with three films in a row whose titles begin with “Man.” A Man to Remember (more on this recently discovered 1938 gem in a future post), A Man’s Job and The Man Of No Return and rather than bore you with lengthy reviews of films that should best be avoided, I’ll just say that A Man Of No Return should have stayed away. Normally I’d also ignore A Man’s Job as a film to be, well, ignored but I feel compelled to comment on a particular element of this film.
Continue reading IFFR 07: Getting Started & The Ick Factor
People, I cannot urge this enough. Shortbus opened in New York City today and I urge every one of you out there to go and see it, asap! Even the few pin-headed, racist, sexually uptight, reactionary, fundamentalist Christian douche bags that might stumble across my blog. Maybe this film will open up a new world for you and you’ll realize that singing sodomites are a wonderful thing.
The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis wrote a wonderful review of the film, which you can find here. Yes, that’s the same Manohla with whom I apparently almost had a flame war a few months back. What can I say, on that film we disagreed, on this one, we are on the same page…no Foley pun intended.
That said, TV Guide’s review while positive, has the most baffling lead I’ve read in a long time, and I quote:
A darkly comic trifle that follows in the footsteps of such films as Catherine Breillat’s Romance (2000), [Vincent Gallo’s] The Brown Bunny (2003) and Michael Winterbottom‘s 9 Songs (2004) by incorporating hard-core sex into a nonpornographic narrative.
Uh, ok. Except that the only thing Shortbus really has in common with those three films is genitalia. And “darkly comic trifle?” What does that even mean?
Shortbus is being released by ThinkFilm in New York City as of today, October 4th and in Los Angeles & San Francisco on October 6th. Make it a point to support the film on opening weekend and remember, we all get it in the end!
Other posts about of Shortbus:
The Rabbi Report’s TIFF Review: Shortbus
Tom Hall’s Back Row Manifesto…TWHiii nails it once again: Toronto 2006 | Ideas And Liberation
The Rabbi Report:
Shortbus Party At Cannes – 1st Video Blog
2nd Shortbus Cannes Video – Shoo Bee Doo Bee Doo Wop!
3rd Shortbus Cannes Video – Ça Plane Pour Moi!
Final Shortbus Cannes Video – Wig In A Box
Photo © Think Film Company Inc.
The American Heritage dictionary defines pornography as: “Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal” while Dictionary.com says it is “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.” Using those definitions, know this: despite what you might have heard or read, John Cameron Mitchell‘s brilliant new film Shortbus is most decidedly not pornographic. As Tom Lehrer wrote in his genius pro-porn tune, “Smut”: “To be smut it has to be ut-terly without redeeming social importence.” Mitchell’s film is beautiful, sexy, smart, sensitive, loving, incisive, relevant and a whole host of other adjectives, all of which fall squarly under the rubric of socially important.
Continue reading TIFF Review: Shortbus