Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lisandro Alonso's LIVERPOOL begins run at Anthology Film Archives


Doing away with conventional exposition is a tricky business in film-making but Lisandro Alonso gets away with it pretty well in his 2008 movie LIVERPOOL, now receiving its first U.S. theat-
rical release via New York City's Anthology Film Archives. It's one thing to ignore exposition when you have a main character who is relatively

open and sociable. When you have an extreme loner, as is the case with Alonso's "hero" Farrel, this makes connecting with the movie much more difficult. And yet I believe the co-writer (with Salvador Roselli) and director, whose brooding visage is pictured at right, manages even this challenge better than might be expected.

We see enough of Farrel's work world -- on a ship -- to know immediately that the guy has some problems. Later, we follow him as he disembarks and sets off for the hinter-
lands to visit the mountain village of his mother (whom he does not even know is alive or dead), making pit-stops for food, sleep and topless entertainment along the way. The movie's visuals are quietly enticing. Farrel's lack of desire for -- or skill at -- communica-
tion becomes a kind of challenge to the viewer, one that you will either rise to or give up. Should you stick with Liverpool (the title takes on meaning only in the last few moments), I believe that you will find yourself engrossed in the life unfurling quietly before you. In addition to his mother and an old man who knows him, Farrel comes upon someone else of surprising importance.

It's this new character (shown seated, below) who brings the movie its small poignancy, not to mention a whole lot of questions that broaden our view of Farrel, making his extreme loneliness and isolation even more upsetting. From where does this all come? We get only hints from the few bits of dialog -- the tiny town is not the most communicative location in the world -- but they do make us wonder: Is this the simple story of a young man who set off for life and adventure away from home or a story of deep, fatherless family dysfunction (incest, perhaps)? Answers are not forthcoming, yet any way you slice it, Liverpool is a kind of horror story of a life so cramped and cut off that it might approach tragedy -- if we, or our hero, could come close to figuring it out.

That Alonso is a filmmaker who enjoys being different is clear from his very opening: the first frame features the "thank you" credits we usually find at a film's end. These are followed in reverse order by the other credits, so that when the film -- only 84 minutes long -- ends, it is truly and entirely over. The wonderful cinematography is by Lucio Bonelli, who also shot one of Argentina's top money-
makers this year: Música en espera, which co-opens this month's FSLC LatinBeat festival. All the technical credits, in fact, are above par. The real question is whether or not audiences will have the ability to sit, watch and listen carefully enough to take in what Señor Alonso is offering.

Liverpool plays at AFA through next Tuesday, September 8, daily at 7 and 9pm, with an extra 5 pm matinee on Saturday and Sunday. Ticket information is available here.

2 comments:

Ben Greenblatt said...

When does this come to Los Angeles?

James van Maanen, said...

I'm checking with AFA, Ben. Will post another comment as soon as I learn something