Sunday, July 29, 2012

Violeta ***

Director: Andrés Wood
Cast: Francisca Gavilán, Thomas Durand, Christian Quevedo
Gabriela Aguilera, Roberto Farías

"I will sing wherever there is someone who will listen" says Violeta Parra (Gavilán) when asked about her venues of choice and through Andrés Wood's stunning Violeta (in Spanish poetically titled Violeta se fue a los cielos) we are exposed not to a "biopic" character, but to a woman whose desire to create was stronger than her ties to family or societal norms.
Framed within a TV interview Parra gave in Argentina, the film uses this relatively traditional structure to then travel back and forward in time to tell us her life story. Done with the impressionistic style Olivier Dahan only wishes he'd achieved with his chaotic La vie en rose, this movie transcends biopic-ness to enter something much more profound, it is both poetry and psychological analysis turned into film.
While it obviously intends to paint a portrait of who this woman was, it does so not merely by listing chronological highlights, but by wondering what they meant to her, how they affected her creative process. "Creation is a bird without a flight plan" exclaims Parra, portrayed by the seductive Gavilán as an explosive creature, often overflowing with passions. Where a less talented performer would've turned Parra into an exercise of mimicry, Gavilán infuses her with impressive energy, creating little moments in the performance that can not be considered anything other than brilliant. She gives herself to this character and has no problem exploring Parra's body issues (the scene where she grabs her stomach as if asking god why can't she be young again is chilling and heartbreaking). For those unfamiliar with Parra, she will display a range of emotions that will undoubtedly send them looking for her work, wondering if she was this vibrant and powerful.
The answer will of course be yes, since not only did she establish a revolutionary folk movement in South America, but she also became an example of creation that went beyond the laws of men. The movie has no issue in showing Parra was no angel, audiences might leave the film wondering why she abandoned her children for so long, why she didn't become more of a martyr and why doesn't she fit the characteristics of artists whose lives become movies?
Wood chose an atypical style to craft his film and makes it become a magical realist musical. There are never moments of sudden epiphany where we see how Parra came to create this and that, instead he uses her legacy to trace back the emotional and psychological states that she was in when she made them. It might sound ironic to bring this up, but the movie could have no sound or dialogues and still be powerful, because Wood's images speak just as loudly as Parra's music (that he chooses not to use her most famous song during any key scenes is truly admirable).
Violeta is an homage to a great artist, which at the same time seems to be competing with her work. This doesn't mean that Wood undermines Parra's music (or her graphic arts) but that he loves film with the same intensity that Parra loved her own devices, and would by no means let external factors deter his own creation.

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