Thursday, September 5, 2013

IL FUTURO: a Roberto Bolaño work comes to the screen, adapted by Alicia Scherson

From the few short stories TrustMovies has read by the late Chilean prize-winning author Roberto Bolaño, it's clear that the guy had an interest in and appreciation of movies, so I do wonder what he would make of IL FUTURO, the new film that Alicia Scherson has adapted and directed from Bolaño's 2002 Una Novelita Lumpen? Though I have not read that "little novel," from what I have read of Bolaño, it seems to me that Ms Scherson has captured in her own visual style some of the author's mixture of the real and the surreal, along with the accompaniment of odd feelings that occur as you are reading the work of this strange and rather wonderful writer.

What happens in the film is perfectly believable, in its odd way, yet you feel that you have also entered some kind of dream state. How Scherson (shown at right) does this visually has a lot to do with her cinematography (the cinematographer is the gifted Ricardo DeAngelis, who began his career shooting the extraordinary Man Facing Southeast!). Here the planes that we see, which ought to be giving dimension and depth, are somehow flattened into a single, dimensionless level. Though distance is lost, the flat perspective gives off a wondrous sense of the otherworldly, while remaining "real."

This visual sense fits nicely into the story of a South American brother (Luigi Ciardo, above, left) and sister (Manuela Martelli, above, right) of high-school age (she older than he) who are suddenly orphaned while in Spain and must stick together and somehow make their life in this new country. A tale like this could go in so many directions, but Bolaño/Scherson turn it into something quite real on one level but into the fantastic on another.

The girl must work to bring in enough extra income to take care of them. The boy begins cutting school and hanging out at a nearby gym, from which he brings home a couple of "friends" (Alessandro Giallocostaabove, left, and Nicolas Vaporidis, above, right.) These are unsavory types, all right, yet both seem a little different from the usual aging delinquents. But then, so are sis and bro.

There's a odd/kindly social worker, too, who is helping, more or less, the kids to keep on track. Into the mix comes a old actor and muscle man, now blind but still wealthy (Rutger Hauer, in one of the best roles he's had in a long while), whom sis is ordered to "befriend" and then find the "safe" in his apartment. Nothing goes quite according to plan, and all is seen through that continuing surreal gaze.

Mixing thriller tropes with film noir, love stories, children in jeopardy and the just-slightly-fantastic, Scherson juggles her balls deftly. How you react to this will depend somewhat, I think, on your acceptance of art movies -- films in which content and style are quite different from what you would get via something mainstream. You'll have to be willing to allow your sense of reality to expand a bit, as you question and wonder and surmise.

Yes, this is an "art film." But why not? Bolaño was an artist, and so, it seems, is Ms Scherson. Il Futuro, which of course means The Future (but we don't want to mix this one up with Miranda July's recent movie), a Chile/Italy/Germany/Spain co-production, distributed by Strand Releasing and running 94 minutes, opens this Friday, September 6, in New York City, exclusively at the IFC Center and will eventually open in the Los Angeles area on November 1 at Laemmle's Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7.

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