Wednesday, July 19, 2017

KÉKSZAKÁLLÚ opens: Gastón Solnicki's gorgeous look at Argentine young ladies

The word Kékszakállú is evidently the Hungarian term for Bluebeard, and the movie KÉKSZAKÁLLÚ, from Argentine filmmaker Gastón Solnicki, is said by the writer/director to have been inspired in part by the one-act opera Bluebeard's Castle by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. None of this was in the least evident to me, while watching this very interesting film, though I'm told that selections from that opera are to be found in the movie's musical score. I don't think any of this really matters, however, in terms of one's enjoyment or even understanding of the motion picture.

If you've an appreciation of the visual -- color, composition, camera movement and the like, I don't see how you can not find yourself enrapt, eye-wise at least, by Solnicki's work (the filmmaker is shown at right). Understanding it is another matter.

Since viewing the film, I've read some other writings about it, which purport to explain Solnicki's intentions but to me seem something less than compelling. I won't explain them here because I believe you ought to approach this movie on your own as a pretty much blank slate.

Afterward, sure, go ahead and look up various criticisms and make of them what you will. Meanwhile, just watch and listen and enjoy the really amazing visual sense this filmmaker possesses. We're somewhere in South America, it seems. I noticed references to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina (since I believe the letter to be the filmmaker's home), though the characters here do seem to move around some.

Initially we see a lot of very good looking young bodies on display, in and out of pools, sun-bathing and the like. Clearly we're among the leisure class, with one exception it would seem. However this young woman, below, though she initially appears to be working class, comes from a somewhat wealthy family, too. It is her story the filmmaker seems to connect with most of all.

When I say "story," I am using the term about as loosely as a narrative film can manage. There certainly is no plot here, and the characters are defined by snippets of such minimal dialog that we can only conclude that they are wondering somewhat about their future and what it holds. One young woman does try to imagine herself in various work situations, with not much luck. (And she's a piss-poor driver, to boot.)

There is a heavy sense here of ennui in the present and trepidation of the future. And yet there is almost no indication from any of these young women (the young men are around mostly for decoration -- which they certainly provide) of anything in the larger world that might exist outside their immediate lives and desires. To call them shallow is to accord them a little too much depth.

What we see of the workplace, pristine and sterile, is equally minor -- used mostly, once again, for some great visuals. (One set actually resembles some outre Rube Goldberg invention.) Almost all the living interiors are beautiful and swank, while nature and the outdoors is green and lush. (One character, the hunky young man below, does seem to have come down with a case of maybe poison ivy, however.)

The ending, too, can be taken in alternate ways: positive, toward a new future, or negative, heading into darkness with no map or direction in sight. Still, I'd watch the film all over again (it lasts only 72 minutes), just for the wonderful visuals. The stunning cinematography (from Fernando Lockett and Diego Poleri) is sharp, clear and full of content that continually pleases the eye.

Distributed by Cinema Tropical in partnership with Cinema Slate, the film opens in New York City at the Film Society of Lincoln Center this Friday, July 21, and will expand, one hopes, elsewhere over the weeks to come.

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