Monday, November 12, 2012

Colors and Shadows

Tren de Sombras (1997) - Guerin
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Gerard Fleury, a Parisian attorney and amateur filmmaker, disappeared while vacationing in Normandy with his extended family in 1930. He left countless disintegrating home movie reels. José Luis Guerin, using some of Fleury footages and reenacting scenes with actors, makes an utterly captivating film. The film starts with a prolonged b&w home movie- the family on vacation in their big country estate. Sound of projector running is audible. Then it's the present- rustling of the wind, fallen leaves, the empty, decaying opulent estate, shadow play on decorative walls, rain. The long sequence is just as beautiful as any later JLG films. Tren de Sombras doesn't catch fire 'til half way in, when it becomes a reconstruction of the Fleury family through the home movie reels. Guerin playfully edits- using jump cuts, juxtapositions and split screen, suggesting the scenario of illicit affair between a maid and the elder son. This voyeuristic process is not unlike Antonioni's Blow Up or Zapruder reenactment. But the film is much more than that. It is obvious that Guerin is playing with the genre and form. The films works on many levels. With elegant and poetic images, the film never feels sordid or trivial. There is no dialog- as in In the City of Sylvia, he utilizes sound of the street and nature. And there is a glorious, Brakhage-like experimental element to the whole thing. Tren de Sombras hits all the right notes in what I'm looking for in movies right now.

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