Thursday, May 31, 2012

Julia Murat's FOUND MEMORIES, about motion (& still) pictures, opens in New York

How unusual, what a blessing it is to have two quiet and beautiful movies opening up the same week in New York City, certainly one of the hustle/bustle capitals of the globe. For anyone wanting a respite, some solace from the ever-present rupture and noise, you've got two fine choices (Why choose: See 'em both!): Hide Away, covered earlier this week, and the film under consideration here, FOUND MEMORIES.

This very quiet movie, co-written (with Maria Clara Escobar and Felipe Sholl) and directed by Júlia Murat, (shown at right) tells the simple and slow-moving story of a backwater Brazilian town, located in the verdant region of the Paraíba Valley. Formerly somewhat grand but now fallen into disrepair and populated by a few remaining senior citizens and the town's priest -- each of whom apparently has a daily task to accomplish for the good of the small community -- the town of Jotuomba could almost be seen as what lies in store for another small community, whose story was finely told in the recent documentary Tales from Dell City, TX.

Found Memories, however, is not a documentary, though it uses much of the kind of film-making technique found in documentaries (Ms Murat's only other full-length feature was a doc titled Dia dos pais). This is a narrative film, with the town and its characters created from the imagination but given such specifics (along with rapturously lovely cinematography by Lisandro Alonso's usual cameraman, Lucio Bonelli) that they live and breathe and catch us up in their lives -- despite (maybe even because of) how slowly things move here. This is part of the town's and of the movie's charm. You'll either go with it or quickly give up.

The townsperson we spend most time with is Madelena, in her 80s, still mourning her late husband and baking the town's bread, rising in the still-dark early morning to make and then carry the bread (see left) to Antonio (Luiz Serra), who runs the town's empty coffee house and calls Madelena a "stubborn old lady" because she insists on placing the bread her way in his shop, after which he re-does it to his own specifications.  ("OK, OK. So when," I hear you youngsters asking, "comes the first car chase/car crash?")

The movie's action, such as it is, concerns the arrival of a young woman named Rita (played by Lisa Fávero, above), a photographer perhaps on vacation (or escaping from a bad relationship) who needs a hotel (there is none) and so persuades Madelena to let her stay with her for a few days. These soon become a week, and a guarded relationship (between Rita and Madelena and between Rita and the town and its inhabitants) slowly blossoms into something more.

There. TM has done what he always tries to avoid -- giving away the goddamned plot. Yet this blossoming, with its tiny increments and details, is really all. Within it, you'll stumble across some inter-esting ideas: the glories of motion vs. still photography, why age needs youth & vice versa, and the uses and importance of tradition and repetition. And maybe ever more that I didn't catch. So relax, lean back, stay awake, and enjoy. This is one beautiful movie.

Found Memories (called Historias que so existem quando lembradas in its native Portuguese), from the ever-reliable Film Movement, opens tomorrow -- Friday, June 1 -- in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. The only other playdate currently scheduled can be found here. Once the movie opens in Manhattan and does some decent box-office, however, who knows?

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