Monday, September 12, 2016

Beauty in both despair and rebirth: Julio Quintana's gorgeous THE VESSEL opens

Faith gets a good workout in the new Spanish-language film, THE VESSEL (El navio), from writer/director Julio Quintana, a fellow who was first assistant camera on Paradise Recovered, one of the very few faith-based films TrustMovies has seen that he actually enjoyed and found worth recommending. This new one is also worth recommending, and not only for its immense beauty. It also tells a rather timeless story of despair, faith and rebirth in a manner smart enough intellectually and with frequent eye-popping visuals that make the trip worthwhile.

Starring a quietly impressive actor, Lucas Quintana (shown below, who may or may not be related to the director, Julio, shown at left), as its hero, Leo, the film also offers a better-known American actor, Martin Sheen (seen on poster, top, and further below), in a major supporting role as the town priest. The beautiful little seaside village in which the movie takes place endured a low-level Tsunami some years back in which all the town's school-age children (along with their teacher) were pulled into the ocean to drown.

Since then, the village has lost its "faith." The women are still wearing black; couples don't copulate; children aren't born. Our hero's mom (played by Jacqueline Duprey, below, left), having lost her other son (the one she preferred) has gone a little cuckoo (she wears pink but gets away with it because she's perceived as nuts). Even Leo's love interest (Aris Mejias, below, right) -- who married that drowned school-teacher because our guy was too shy to speak to her -- seem to have remained "stillborn" so far as any real growth is concerned.

The poor, put-upon priest is unable to coerce his flock into anything approaching belief, let alone action. Now, all this might sound like a set-up for the usual faith-in-Christianity film. And it is. Especially given all the religion symbols we observe visually, followed by something seemingly miraculous and Lazarus-like that happens. But the manner in which Quintana works out what follows is not so simple.

Faith is always front and center here but how it is perceived and acted upon by the "flock" is, as ever, more stupid and sheep-like than anything else. Even Leo's quest to build some kind of ship (below) out of the remains of the schoolhouse does not reflect, well, world-class thinking.

In the end, what happens could be said to be due as much to man as to god (even if man is maybe acting out what he imagines that god wants).

What holds this movie afloat, then aloft, is its great beauty. Quintana and his cinematographer (Santiago Benet Mari), together with the Puerto Rican locations they've chosen, conspire to make this one of the most visually splendid films in a long while.

This is not due simply to the gorgeous settings -- the beautifully "distressed" architecture, the ever-present sea, the vast sky, the colors, the verdant foliage -- but as much to the perspective, often odd and just slightly "off," that the movie offers.

Shots of water bubbling up unexpectedly; old, thick, hardcover books drying out over a clothes line; stunning faces, seen angry or in repose. All of this combines to keep our eyes glued, even as our minds struggle with the meaning.

There are times here when the townspeople seem so stupid and inhumane that they don't deserve to survive (they may bring to mind our current Trump supporters: ah, humanity!), and if the Jesus symbolism gets a little thick -- dragging that boat as a stand-in for the cross -- nothing lasts long enough to become "overdone."

The movie always bounces back, and its final thought about how we are all connected is expressed verbally with as much beauty and intelligence as Quintana's visuals have offered.

From Outsider Pictures and running a lean 85 minutes, the film opens all across the country this Friday, Sept. 16.

Note: This film is being shown in two versions: one spoken in English, the other in Spanish with English subtitles. Check with the specific theater to learn which version is being shown -- and when.

In New York City, you can see it at the AMC Empire 25; in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Music Hall and Playhouse 7, and at AMC's Rolling Hills 20 and Orange 30 (in Orange Country).

Here in South Florida it will open in Miami at AMC's Aventura Mall 24 (spoken in English only) and Sunset Place 24 (spoken in Spanish with English subtitles); in Coral Gables at the Bill Cosford Cinema, (both English and Spanish versions shown here), and in the Fort Lauderdale area at the Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood (in Spanish with English subtitles).

Personal appearance in South Florida 
by star, Lucas Quintana

Friday, September 16
AMC SUNSET PLACE 24 The Shops at Sunset Place 5701 Sunset Dr #300 South Miami, FL 33143 Introduction & Q/A(s) with Lucas Quintana will take place. The Spanish version of the film will be presented.
Saturday, September 17
AMC AVENTURA 24 Aventura Mall 19501 Biscayne Blvd #3001 Aventura, FL 33180 Introduction and Q&A will take place with Lucas Quintana at 3pm. The English version of the film will be presented.
CINEMA PARADISO-HOLLYWOOD 2008 Hollywood Blvd Hollywood, FL 33020 Introduction & Q/A’s with Lucas Quintana will take place at the 6:30pm and 9:30pm screenings. The Spanish version of the film will be presented. ****A special reception at 8:30pm (between the two shows) will feature a live musical performance by Quintana. The reception is open to ticket holders for either screening. Complimentary Tapas will be served and wine will be available for purchase. For Advance tickets and details visit:
Sunday, September 19 
BILL COSFORD CINEMA 5030 Brunson Dr Coral Gables, FL 33146 Q/A at 4:00pm with Lucas Quintana. For advance tickets and details visit: The Spanish version of the film will be presented. The theater will alternate Spanish and English language versions throughout the engagement.

Click here and then click on IN CINEMAS on the task bar to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and  theaters -- including the forthcoming Q&As.

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