Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ardor [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  ChiTrib/Variety (2 1/2 Stars)  RE.com (2 1/2 Stars) Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
FilmAffinity.com/es listing*
CineNacional.com listing*
CriticasDePeliculas.com listing*

Clarin.com (P.O. Scholz) review*
ElDia.com.ar (A. Castañeda) review*
LaNacion.com.ar (D. Batlle) review*
LeerCine.com.ar (S. Garcia) review*
Pandora-Magazine (M.J. Diaz-Maroto) review*
ProyectorFantasma.com.ar (M. Santillan) review*
TeLam.com.ar (P. Pécora) review*
Vos (R. Koza) review*

aVoir-aLire (G. Crespo) review*
CinemaObscura.com (T. Grégoire) review*
RogerEbert.com (G. Kenny) review
Slant Magazine (C. Lund) review
The Hollywood Reporter (D. Rooney) review
Variety (P. Debruge) review

Ardor [2014] [IMDb] [FAes]*[CN]* (written and directed by Pablo Fendrik [IMDb] [FAes]*[CN]*) an Argentinian-Brazilian coproduction (with also Mexican and French support) set in the tropical jungle forest of Northwestern Argentina uses the conventions of the classic "Western" to tell its story.  While this may seem surprising at first, I do believe it works pretty well:

A small Argentinian "homesteader" (played by Chico Díaz [IMDb] [FAes]*) who's worked hard to buy his little plot of land and has set-up his little subsistence farm (making a little tobacco on the side) with his daughter Vania (played by Alice Braga [IMDb] [FAes]*[CN]*) finds himself threatened by three toughs (played by Claudio Tolcachir [IMDb] [FAes]*[CN]*, Julián Tello [IMDb] [FAes]*[CN]* and Jorge Sesán [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]*) sent out by some agro-business concern that wants to buy-out the small time farmers, raze the rest of the forest and set-up sort of a industrial scale cattle ranch / alfalfa business.  (The quintessential North American Western would have a small town or rancher threatened by some corrupt big time ranger, mining interest or some railroad).

In their defense, arrives a mysterious forest dweller (played by Gael García Bernal [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]*) who uses his acquired knowledge of the land (forest) to (minor spoiler alert) beat-back/defeat these minions of the faceless / distant corporate interest that wants to destroy this family and their land. (In a quintessential Western, a mysterious "cowboy" / "gunslinger" again, "one with the land" arrives to beat back / defeat the minions sent on behalf of the faceless / distant corporate interest (railroad, big time rancher, mining interest) on behalf of the threatened family / small town). 

So I do believe that the Western metaphor works and Viewers get to enjoy often spectacularly beautiful jungle scenery as the story plays itself out.   (Note to Readers:  There have actually been several quite excellent recent films made around the world that have tried to apply the conventions of the Western to local circumstances.  These have included the Austrian "Alpine Western" Dark Valley (orig. Das Finstere Tal) [2014] set in the "high Alps" of the late 19th century, and the contemporary Russian tale of one man trying to stand-up to corruption in a sleepy Siberian town today in A Long and Happy Life (orig. Долгая счастливая жизнь) [2013]).

I also think that Gael García Bernal [IMDb] [FAes]* [CN]* and Alice Braga [IMDb] [FAes]*[CN]* play probably the hottest Hispanic couple in a film like this since Antonio Benderas [IMDb] [FAes] and Salma Hayek [IMDb] [FAes] played similar roles in El Mariacchi [1992]Desperado [1995] (where the setting was a previously sleepy desert Mexican town and the faceless corporate interest were Mexican drug lords).

Finally, the battles that have gone on in that Amazon rain forest have truly had a "Wild West character" (with the big-time / corporate interests doing most of the killing).   Two famous cases of the murders of activists defending the small-time subsistence farmers / inhabitants of the Amazon against the big time ranchers / corporate interests have been that of Chico Mendez (organizer of the seringueros/rubber tappers of Acre) in 1988 and Sr. Dorothy Stang, S.N.D. in 2005.

My religious order, the Servants of Mary, knew and worked with Chico Mendes personally.  In 2007, it published a book about the stories of a lot of the small time people (both indigenous and of European descent) who live and work in the Amazon.  I helped translate the book and it is available in English at: The Amazonia that We Do Not Know (2012).  Honestly, some of the stories recounted there could help Readers appreciate the current film here.

So honestly folks, good job!

ADDENDUM: This film which is currently (7/20/2015) playing the art-house circuit in the United States (including playing at Facets Multimedia here in Chicago) is also available on various streaming platforms including Amazon Online Video.

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

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