Magazine article Variety

Neruda

Magazine article Variety

Neruda

Article excerpt

Neruda

Director: Pablo Larrain

Starring: Luis Gnecco, Gael Garcia Bernal, Mercedes Morán

Surprises always come at the end of Pablo Larrain's films, when everything suddenly coalesces and the audience sits in the cinema feeling both illuminated and floored. "Neruda" is no different, representing the director at his stunning best with a work of such cleverness, beauty, and power, that it's hard to know how to parcel out praise: script, cinematography, art direction, and performances all vie for kudos and awards, though the film's placement in Directors' Fortnight rather than competition at Cannes is a head-scratcher. "Neruda" is not a biopic, but instead an invention informed by biography, conjuring a richly detailed investigator with notions of self-grandeur who's hunting the famed leftist writer-politician Pablo Neruda in Chile in 1948. Sales will be vigorous, with international success practically certain.

Titling the film "Neruda" might be seen as a marketing drawback, since some will imagine a straightforward look at the poet's life - though those familiar with Larrain's work know that's never been his style. Instead, he deftly mixes fiction with a form of truth, presenting Neruda (Luis Gnecco) not as the passionate romantic of his verse, but as a champagne communist very much tied to passing pleasures. Yet what Larrain makes clear by the end of the film is that any artist is less important than what they inspire: Giving voice to the powerless and arousing the senses are the ultimate gifts to the masses.

Not only do Larrain and Guillermo Calderón, his screenwriter from "The Club," create a mirror-image Neruda (the director accurately describes his film as "Nerudian"), but they invent police prefect Oscar Peluchonneau to track him. Gael Garcia Bernal plays the inspector, who's something of a less-bumbling Clouseau, with perhaps a little Hergé and a lot of Neruda himself thrown in. Peluchonneau is as much the film's protagonist as the poet is, serving as both Neruda's nemesis and his creation.

Neruda was a politician and diplomat in 1948 when President Gabriel González Videla (Alfredo Castro) betrayed his leftist roots and allied himself with the war on communism. As Chile's most famous Stalinist, Neruda lost his high-powered protectors and went into hiding with his aristocratic Argentinian wife, Delia del Carril (Mercedes Morán), assisted by members of the Communist Party far more attuned to the hardships of the working class than was the poet himself.

That's where Peluchonneau comes in, heard in voiceover before viewers know who's speaking. While the audience rarely questions a narrator's reliability, Larrain demands our skepticism from the moment the character behind the voice is revealed. …

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