for Cinetalk.net

Two remote stories are coming our way from Latin America, both with similitude in  their manners of using screenwriting devices as tools to craft gorgeous image in a shared quality that is also their biggest flaw.

In Colombian director Alejandro Landes’ Monos, a group of recruits guerrilla fighters must keep an eye on an American hostage (and a feeding Cow) for the ‘organization’. They are surrounded by a hostile jungle as all Hell breaks loose, trapping the group into a frenzy state of decay, physically and spiritually.

Monos‘ screenplay, is mainly an excuse to craft beautiful images. Since the landscape and surrounding nature are breathtaking, it certainly works on that level, sustained by a score from Oscar nominated composer Mica Levi sounding at times like additional sound editing. It’s a cinematic experience. But, while the screenplay seems to come from a source material right out of Joseph Conrad Conrad’s garden, the dramatic build up is simply non-existent.

Monos exposes thematic material of an episodic nature (the cow which seems so deadly important in one scene, becomes easily an element that could have been cut) and extends it way beyond its capacity to fill up a full length feature. The numerous changes of pace seem pointless as the director and writer are unable to combine a strange atmosphere (they suddenly start to set up) to the suspense they were apparently trying to build in the first place. Everything is beautifully crafted, but is systematically falling short.

Melina Leon’s Cancion Sin Nombre was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.  It is shot in glorious Black and white and based on factual events, an investigation by the director’s father, a journalist during Peru’s political crisis of the 1980’s, about new born babies kidnapped and sold abroad by private clinics with political links.

We obviously can relate emotionally with the explored themes and once again, the images are extremely well crafted and inspired. . But It comes as quite surprising that such a minimal beautiful piece, which should not be a full length feature, contains nevertheless too many subplots and back stories (the repressed homosexuality of the father, for instance) as all of it is only partially explored, leaving us with a lack of real screenplay-wise details that also makes this one falling short to deliver the final blow we should expect.

Cancion Sin Nombre: Wednesday October 16, 5PM, at Cineplex Quartier Latin.

Monos: Thur Oct 17, 9PM,  AND Sat Oct 19, 3:30PM, at Cineplex Quartier Latin.