Over the years Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain has made a name for himself for creating movies of tragic figures, stories and dark blimps in his country’s history. Recently he made his English Language debut with Jackie based on Jackie Kennedy, but now he goes back to his homeland for Neruda. Swapping the brutality and oppression of the post world war 2 Fascist Chile to follow a wisecracking Champagne loving Communist. Pablo Neruda, a legend able to captivate a revolution, someone an oppressive government would dearly like to ‘silence’.
This is not your typical biopic nor is it one wrapped in the cotton wool of truth. Larrain himself said he didn’t want a paint by numbers generic biopic but one it’s not scared to twist the truth a little in the name of entertainment. A wildly satirical tale that was good enough to become the country’s, Oscar entry earlier this year.
Neruda doesn’t hark back to the man himself childhood but the post world war days of 1948, Senator Neruda (Luis Gnecco) is irritating the government who has betrayed his communist party. Thanks to his outburst President Gonalez Videla (Alfredo Castro) who is a puppet of America (The Cold War has just started) has issued a warrant for his arrest. He assigns Police Prefect Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) to bring the Senator under arrest, which forces our poetic revolutionary to flee the country with his artist wife Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán). Fleeing to friends, comrades and allies worldwide including painter Pablo Picasso pressing for Neruda to be free. This gives our protagonist to reinvent himself as a symbol of freedom and liberty, which turns his plight into a dangerous game of cat and mouse, leaving little clues for his frustrated hunter.
What really separates Neruda from Larrain’s other movies, is it’s not one that focuses solely on politics, it’s one that’s about the people. He’s more interested in getting into the mind of a man who claims to be the voice of the oppressed. This is a man who likes those finer things in life that many he claims to represent would be lucky to experience in their lifetimes.
There is one particular we find Neruda hiding out in what can only be described as a menagerie of forbidden pleasures (Brothel). Enjoying the finest champagnes, luxurious foods as well as singing and dancing with ladies (and men) of pleasure, even disguising himself as one of the ‘ladies’ to evade an incoming Peluchonneau. This is a scene that could easily fit right into a Fellini or even a Rivette movie even a homage to Jodorowsky.
Our Hapless policeman Peluchonneau thinks he’s our movies lead man but we know it’s his constant one step behind that frustrates him endlessly. This actually gives the movie a pulpy Philip Marlowe noir feel mixed up with Neruda’s poems which we hear throughout the movie really gives the whole movie a real classic tone. A narrative that’s full of tension, humour, self-awareness sliding between Hitchcockian unease, film noir, comedy and Western.
As for our two main actors Gnecco and Garcia Bernal they rarely share screen time together but as they share a story and destiny they share a kinetic chemistry that keeps the movie interesting most of all intriguing. Luis Gnecco is magnetic as our bubbly loving Pablo Neruda embracing his high life despite being a leftist icon he claims to be. Gael García Bernal is equally brilliant as Peluchonneau whose constant bad timing is a nightmare for him but for the viewer, it’s spot on comedic timing.
Neruda politically doesn’t take any side merely pays homage to the arts whilst reflecting on those who pretend to represent us are as corrupt as each other. This is poetry in motion on the screen and behind it.
Paul Devine | ★★★★
Biography, Crime, Drama | 15 | Chile, 2016 | 10th July 2017 (UK) | Network Releasing | Dir. Pablo Larrain | Luis Gnecco, Gael García Bernal, Mercedes Morán, Diego Muñoz, Pablo Derqui |Buy:[Blu-ray]
Originally posted at The Peoples Movies | 10th July 2017