What a pleasure it is to see ARAYA, the extraordinary, utter-
ly gorgeous film by Margot Benacerraf (shown below) -- even if it is arriving a half-century late. Something this unusual -- the subject and the filming of it -- is found rarely, if at all, so thanks be to Milestone (the company that last year gave us The Exiles) for the gift.
I realize that we film buffs tend to go a
bit ga-ga about black-and-white cinematography -- probably because we see so little of it that's new anymore. Until you've viewed Araya, with its pristine images and their stunning gradations from white to black -- including seemingly every subtle gray in between -- you haven't really experi-
enced the thing. Granted, Benacerraf's title location, a peninsula in northeastern Venezuela, would seem a perfect spot for the camera. Her subject, too, could hardly be more au courant: sea salt -- that staple on every gourmet table today. But this film was made fifty years ago, when every table with which I was acquainted offered that round, dark blue cardboard container with the little girl in the raincoat and the motto, "When it rains, it pours."