Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blue Desert (orig. Deserto Azul) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing*

A Fohla de Sao Paulo (S. Marti) review*
O Globo (C. Helí de Almeida) review* (C.A. Mattos) review*
Gizmodo Brasil (N. Ferreira) review* (R. Pena) review* (F. Duque) review*

Blue Desert (orig. Deserto Azul) [2014] [IMDb] [AC]* (directed and cowritten by Eder Santos [EAI-biog] [Vimeo] [IMDb] [AC]* along with Mônica Cerqueira [IMDb] [AC]*) is a BRAZILIAN AVANT GARDE / FUTURISTIC / SCIENCE FICTION MOVIE that played recently at the 2015 -- 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival that IMHO will probably initially confuse a lot of regular science fiction fans.

This is because cowriter/director of the film, Eder Santos [EAI-biog] [Vimeo] [IMDb] [AC]*, comes out of an avant garde video arts tradition with some of his works in the permanent collections of the MoMA in New York and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.  So the most important thing to understand about Santos' movie is that it has more in common with the surrealism of Salvador Dalí complete with surrealism's often existentialist preoccupations (life as often empty, lonely, absurd) than with the highly populated / conflict-driven "Space Operas" of Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, or Marvel Comics

At least one of the reviewers above, A Fohla's Silas Martí, noted that Santos' vision of the future is at least partly rooted in Brazilian experience.  After all, in the 1950s, Brazil's government decided to unilaterally move the country into a new future, by deciding to build the country's "new capital of the future," Brasilia, in the center of the country (meaning, back then, IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE) producing a DECADES-LONG experience of "futuristic Brasilia" as a well planned city of wide tree lined parks and boulevards LARGELY EMPTY OF PEOPLE.  That is changing, but the reviewer noted that a good part of the current film was still filmed in Brasilia and the effect remains of a future that seems to be marked by emptiness, loneliness and a fundamental search for meaning in the midst of an existence that does seem quite absurd.  Honestly, I found that to be a fascinating insight into the movie and even into how BRAZIL'S EXPERIENCE HAS A LOT TO SAY TO HUMANITY about "futuristic projects" seeking to "envision / engineer a future."

So then, in the film we are introduced to a young Brazilian man, simply known as "ele" (meaning simply "he" played by Odilion Esteves [IMDb] [AC]*) who, contemplating the new, and honestly quite absurd "second moon" (seriously a second BIG Earth-orbiting moon-like perhaps even moon-sized ORB) put up 'by humanity' some time back, explaining to us, viewers, that "this second moon was intended to be 'a gift' presumably to all humanity just as 'the statue of Christ' was intended to be 'a gift' to Rio de Janeiro / Brazil, 'the statue of Liberty' was intended to be a 'gift' to New York / the United States, 'the Eiffel Tower' was intended to be 'a gift' to Paris / France, etc. AND THAT THIS SECOND MOON was INTENDED TO 'BRING TRANQUILITY' TO PEOPLE (HUMANITY) ... But he confesses that it 'just makes (him) nervous' because he really doesn't understand why it needs to be there." ;-) ;-)

And so it is, our main character in the story -- young, good-looking, fit, healthy as he seems -- simply feels FUNDAMENTALLY 'UNEASY.'  He has everything that would seem to be important (youth, health, intelligence) and the world itself seems quite safe /  free of problems (free of poverty, war, disease) ... but ... he just feels ... 'anxious' ... and really, really lonely, because in his world of the future ALMOST EVERYTHING seems to be done in a mediated fashion.  He rarely sees actual people, just interacts with them over various video screens.  And often he's wearing (smart?, perhaps "rose colored" ...) glasses.

And that's the world in which he lives.  It's LOVELY ... but it's LONELY.   So for much of the movie, he finds himself "walking in a desert."  Now is he really walking in a desert, or are the glasses he's wearing PROJECTING A DESERT because THAT'S HOW HE FEELS?  In any case, the Desert is LOVELY (filmed in Chile) but again LONELY.

He even finally runs into an old man (played by Ângelo Antônio [IMDb] [AC]*), one time in that Desert, who does seem to have "found purpose" in his life (well, at least A PURPOSE).  The old man's there carrying a big tank of water-color paint on his back, spraying the dry-Chilean desert BLUE.  Why?  Why not?  I suppose.

Anyway, eventually "he" gets invited by a friend (played presumably by Chico Díaz [IMDb] [AC]*) to ... a party.  And after being taken there by a "über" contracted "taxi of the future" ... "he" finally comes into contact with actual people ... who, similarly isolated through much of their day-to-day lives prove to be "quite strange."  BUT he does MEET someone there.  Her name is "Alma" (meaning "spirit" or also perhaps the Jungian "anima" played by Maria Luisa Mendonça [IMDb] [AC]*) who does then begin to help him find meaning in his life (as does he for her).

Now a fair question could be asked if "Alma's" real (or "he" is real for "Alma") or if they exist just in each other's heads.  However, the message does seem to be that without at least that fundamental relationship between him-and-her (perhaps even internally) ... life makes no sense at all.

Anyway, a very interesting movie!  And one quite different from Gene Roddenberry / George Lucas / Marvel Comics fare.

* Decent enough (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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