Friday, September 11, 2009

Latinbeat: Llosa's MILK OF SORROW gets two screenings: tonight and Sunday

What does stuffing one's own vagina with a potato indicate about the stuffer? Writer/director (below) Claudia Llosa's THE MILK OF SORROW (La teta asustada) tells us some facts, in chunks of exposition, but indicates more via the alternately withdrawn /florid performance of Magaly Solier (left), whose beauty steals men's hearts (and the viewer's) even as her bizarre behavior quickly pushes most of them away.

For one thing that potato pretty well prevents coitus, which is certainly the original intent -- which the character, Fausta, has learned from her mother (the two are shown below) who was raped repeatedly back in the bad old days of Peru. We north-westerners know a bit about Chile under Pinochet and Argentina's "disappeared," but of Peru's dictatorial history, not so much. We won't learn a lot here, either, but the bits and pieces we pick up from the film will give us, at least, an idea.

The potato also represents a symbolic barrier -- to intimacy, friendship, feelings and more. As it grows its finger-like, projectile eyes, as a doctor in the film so ingratiatingly explains, it infects its host, sickening and weakening her. Holding on to the past, as we are later told, is not healthy. But after growing up with a mom like Fausta's, it's a little difficult to let go.

The Milk of Sorrow begins with some lovely singing: melodius music set to nasty lyrics that lay out the sorry events of the past. These songs fill the film, off and on, and are sung by Ms Solier, sometimes to herself, later to the bizarre, antisocial musician (shown below, left) who hires the girl to work in her home. This place of respite for Fausta, splendidly livable, is condoned off behind a wall in the midst of the throbbing life of the town.

Llosa's movie is filled with wonderful images, oddly but beautifully framed. The splendid cinematography is by -- yep -- Natasha Braier, the woman responsible for some of the best and most varied we've seen over the past few years: In the City of Sylvia, Glue, XXY, Somers Town. (Some day, before he croaks, TrustMovies hopes to get an interview with this woman to learn a bit about how she does it!) Weddings are front and center in the movie, perhaps a tad too much so, which underscores the "clunk" factor but at least provides some interesting visuals (see below).

Familiar things -- the weddings, as well as pearls and swimming pools -- end up seeming quite singular here. But with fear of rape as the motor that drives one's life, why not? The Milk of Sorrow, symbolic, slow-moving and beautiful, does not quite coalesce, and the ending, by any standard, seems too pat. But for the work of Solier and Braier, I would gladly see it again.

The movie plays tonight, Friday September 11, at 9pm, and again Sunday, September 13 at 1:30 pm, at the FSLC's Walter Reade Theater. The complete Latinbeat schedule is here.

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