Monday, July 27, 2009

Dreamy Artisan Cinema: Part Two

(Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico, 2008, 81 mins.)

Click here for part one

Turns out the money is the easy part. Juan borrows from a friend, but help continues to allude him and he can't reach his mother by telephone. The pastel port town of Progreso looks real, but ascribes to a sort of dream logic. Passive if persistent, Juan watches a video with David, then shares a meal with him and his evangelical mother.

Eimbcke, who wrote the semi-autobiographical script with Duck Season's Paula Mar-
kovitch, suggests that Juan needs the companionship of these lonely people as much as they need him. The difference is, they seem to know it, and he doesn't.

Juan walks home, but his mother and younger brother are in no mood to talk, so
he returns to town to pick up the missing part. Next thing he knows, he's watching Enter the Dragon with David, hanging out with Lucía, the aspiring punk-rock singer and single mother (Daniela Valentine) who works with him at the auto parts store, and walking—then losing—Don Heber's beloved boxer. A skinny, sad-faced kid whose clothes hang from his frame, Juan knows how to say no, but not very forcefully.

The reason for his demeanor gradually comes into relief, but Eimbcke drops some broad hints along the way. If the film works, and it does, it would work even better if those hints had been more subtle or had arrived closer to the end, but the way the director infuses a laconic comedy with layers of loss and longing links Lake Tahoe with Duck Season, and serves as a nominal sequel since he features the same actor, and despite the move from black and white to color, urban to rural, interior to exterior.

On the basis of his first film, among the best of '06, I wouldn't have predicted that Eimbcke might one day recall Carlos Reygadas, except the distance between Lake Tahoe and Silent Light* is surprisingly short, while a greater gap lies between him and Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, since the Three Amigos are more genre-oriented (and though he thanks the last two in the credits).

At this point in their respective careers, Eimbcke and Reygadas have the art house in their (widescreen) sights, but while it's hard to imagine Carlos transitioning to Amer-
ican-style filmmaking, Fernando's interest in restless teenagers—notwithstanding Cuarón's Y Tu Mamá También—predicts a career more like Kelly Reichardt or early
Gus Van Sant (especially Mala Noche) than any other Mexican filmmaker to date.

If Lake Tahoe isn't as funny as Duck Season, a low-income twist on Risky Business,
i.e. bored teenager makes the most of an unsupervised Sunday, it's a richer work.

Though Eimbcke relies too much on Jim Jarmusch's fade-to-black device and though
the sleepy pace has its longeurs (even at 81 minutes), he accurately reproduces the
rhythms of small-town life where the seemingly minor episodes between major ev-
ents and the seemingly random strangers who enter your life can attain mythic di-
mensions when the familiar can't—at least temporarily—offer the necessary support.

* DP Alexis Zabé also shot Silent Light.

Lake Tahoe continues at the Northwest Film Forum through 7/30 at 7 and 9pm.
The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. between Pike and Pine. For more infor-
mation, please click here or call 206-829-7863. Images from Film Movement.

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